Due to high rates of women smoking during pregnancy, Madison County Health Commissioner Chris Cook has applied for a grant to hire a health coach focused on combating the problem.
Cook said the most recent data found that 17 percent of women in Madison County admitted to smoking during pregnancy. That number is above the Ohio average of 13 percent and the national average of 11 percent.
He also found the county ranked 14th in child mortality statewide.
“When you see data showing this, to me, this means there’s a serious public health issue,” he said.
On Monday, Cook applied for a $90,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Health to hire a “community health coach,” who will work full-time to provide classes and information to pregnant women, encouraging them to quit smoking.
If awarded, the grant would run for two years, meaning the position could last until at least 2019.
The 60 classes would be for at least 15 pregnant women and their partners, in addition to 162 postpartum classes.
To encourage participation and smoking cessation, public health will offer smoking tests after each session. If a test comes up clean, the participant will be awarded a $25 voucher for diapers. If her partner comes along, that person will be eligible for another $25 voucher.
Cook said that other Madison County health institutions have had similar programs in the past, but they were side projects or part-time work. He feels that a full-time position would help improve outreach and education.
He also noted that WIC, local OB/GYNs and the Rocking Horse Community Health Center have lent support for the grant.
The ODH grants are distributed on July 1, so Cook presumes it will take at least until June before he finds out if the county received the award.
According to the CDC, smoking during pregnancy can cause premature birth and harm the development of the baby, including a plethora of birth defects. They include cleft pallet, where the roof of the mouth is not formed properly and has a wide gap and where the front lip has a split up to one of the nostrils. This can cause the child to have a speech impediment and frequent ear infections.
Maximilian Kwiatkowski can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1617 or on Twitter @MSFKwiat.