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Planned pregnancies mean healthier babies

Alongside all the events that make us proud of Baltimore and our state, a recent announcement deserves additional notice. Last week, we learned the odds of a Maryland baby surviving to her first birthday have improved by more than 20 percent since 2008. Maryland's infant death rate is at an all-time low, meaning hundreds of Maryland families are spared the anguish of losing a child to preventable death ("Preventing infant deaths," Sept. 9).

Planned Parenthood of Maryland joins with our partners in applauding all those who contributed to this tremendous effort.

Maryland has finally moved the needle on infant mortality — a critical indicator of the effectiveness of our health care system across the state. This is the direct result of a sustained, collaborative effort to support new parents by community workers and people in faith, health, business and other organizations. Recognition must also go to those leaders who have held state and city agencies accountable for meeting bold yet attainable health goals. By improving access to prenatal care, preventing premature births, and reducing risks such as SIDS and injuries, infant mortality rates continue to decline.

As important as those interventions are, there is an even earlier opportunity to safeguard babies. When a pregnancy is intended and the mother is in good health, infant outcomes improve. Planned Parenthood of Maryland provides contraception services, supplies, health screenings and treatment through approximately 40,000 patient visits every year. The result is families who are better prepared to meet the physical, emotional, social and economic demands of parenthood and raise healthier babies.

An additional benefit is healthier communities, with higher levels of educational and economic attainment and lowering the need for public supports that are already stretched. In fact, according to Guttmacher Institute, every $1 spent on family planning services saves an estimated $5.68. Expansion of family planning coverage to even more families — part of the Affordable Care Act — makes good economic sense.

Planned Parenthood of Maryland is pleased to be a partner to our state's success. We also know there is more work to be done, especially in minority communities and on the Eastern Shore. With health centers in Easton and Salisbury, along with Annapolis, Frederick, Waldorf and three in the Baltimore area, we are committed to providing affordable and accessible services so even more babies survive and thrive.

We look forward to continuing this partnership in support of Maryland women, families and children.

Frances Phillips and Jenny Black

The writers are, respectively, a member of Planned Parenthood of Maryland's the board of directors and the organization's president and CEO.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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