Reducing Infant Mortality via Healthy Families: Lifestyle Medicine for Culturally Diverse, Underserved Women
A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control revealed that the United States has a higher infant mortality rate than 27 over wealthy countries, despite spending levels higher than any other developed nation in the world. A child born in the United States is three times more likely to die within the first year of life than a child born in Finland among developed countries. An expert panel highlighted the health inequity driving these somber statistics, illustrating that the rise in infant mortality was primarily concentrated in less-advantaged populations.
Lifestyle Medicine for ethnically diverse, underserved women – before, during and after pregnancy – is an essential step to transforming child and family health in an equitable and sustainable manner. The vital role of a mother in promoting healthy families and children is enhanced in culturally diverse, underserved settings, where stories of resilience and success “against all odds” often share a common theme: self-efficacy and confidence instilled by family and maternal mentorship. A key determinant of healthy lifestyles — and ultimately, healthy societies — in ethnically diverse settings where risk of chronic disease is high, is ensuring the health and wellness of women. In particular, lifestyle medicine for pregnant women and women of childbearing age has the potential to improve birth outcomes, reduce maternal and infant mortality and empower women through family planning and increased confidence for healthy behaviors
In this presentation, physicians from the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley describe the “unhealthy lifestyle vulnerabilities” women of childbearing age may experience: unplanned pregnancy, relationship stress, social strife, and unmanaged stress. We present on a framework for culturally competent, participatory lifestyle medicine tailored for pregnant women and women of childbearing age. In Hidalgo County, Texas, authors work with a 95% Hispanic population where the rate of teen pregnancy is among the highest in the nation, obesity affects 1 in 3 residents, and children are predicted to live a shorter lifespan than their parents due to chronic disease. We outline our experience respecting and working with cultural dynamics and values, and uncover common myths and misconceptions about lifestyle medicine (including family planning and emotional health practices) in this vulnerable setting. Finally, we describe a novel Lifestyle Medicine program, operated via a mobile clinic in rural settings, including a local high school for pregnant mothers, in partnership with family planning services, and present components that practitioners wishing to engage pregnant women and new mothers can apply in their own practice.
After this session, participants will be able to:
1. Understand the determinants and epidemiology of infant mortality in the United States and how Lifestyle Medicine is relevant to these figures.
2. List the key “unhealthy lifestyle factors” that are most common in diverse and underserved women, and why they may occur.
3. Explain how family planning, wellness programs and social support interventions can perform vital lifestyle medicine functions for women’s health.
4. Explore common myths and misconceptions regarding lifestyle medicine interventions for low-income and diverse women, and discuss how to overcome these myths.
5. Analyze existing evidence for the role of Lifestyle Medicine in improving infant mortality.
6. Illustrate the components and tailoring of lifestyle medicine for pregnant women.
7. Examine innovative and practical techniques for engaging and administering lifestyle medicine to pregnant women and new mothers.