Learn More: Birth Indicators

What does this mean?

Babies are considered healthy when they are born full-term, have an appropriate birth weight, and have no birth defects or illness. A healthy birth actually begins before the baby is conceived and is characterized by practicing healthy behaviors such as ensuring proper nutrition, taking nutritional supplements (such as multivitamins and folic acid), planning the pregnancy, and preparing emotionally, physically and financially for the lifestyle changes to come.

A healthy mother is much more likely to deliver a healthy baby. The health of the mother before she becomes pregnant is strongly associated with the outcome of the birth. Women with chronic health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes or hypertension, are more likely to have an infant who is preterm, low birth weight or dies in the first year of life. Therefore, good prenatal and interconceptional health conditions can dramatically improve the chances of delivering a healthy baby. Women prior to pregnancy and during pregnancy should avoid:

  • Alcohol (which can cause physical and mental birth defects);
  • Smoking (which can lead to low birth weight, preterm labor and other pregnancy complications);
  • Drugs, including street drugs, over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs and some herbal preparations and medications (which can lead to physical and mental birth defects, low birth weight, preterm labor and delivery and fetal and infant death);
  • Hazardous Substances, such as solvents, paints, paint thinners (which can cause birth defects and increase the risk of miscarriage), cleaners and pesticides, cigarette smoke, lead (in water and paint), carbon monoxide, mercury;
  • Stress (although pregnancy is a stressful time for many women, very high levels of stress may contribute to preterm birth or low birth weight in full-term babies);
  • Abusive Relationships can be: sexual, physical (hitting, kicking or pushing) or emotional (yelling, threatening or name-calling). Living in an abusive relationship can harm the mother and baby – the baby could be physically injured, or the mother could miscarry or have preterm labor.

Why is it important?

  • Poor infant health is a strong predictor of lower cognitive abilities tested at 1, 2, and 3 years of age. Children aged 4 to 17 who were born preterm, at a low birth weight or with a birth defect or illness were more likely to be enrolled in special education classes, to repeat a grade, or to fail school than children who were born healthy.
  • The infant's health at birth is also a strong predictor of chronic health conditions such as cerebral palsy or recurrent respiratory infections as well as death in the first year of life.

How are the data collected (methods)?

In Florida, this data is regularly collected and maintained by the State's Department of Health.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
March of Dimes
Pathways Mapping Initiative

Caveats and Limitations

The birth data statistics presented are calculated spatially by first geocoding the addresses of the birth mothers. Geocoding involves matching a physical address to a digital reference layer, such as a roads or parcels layer, in GIS. Geocoding rarely results in a 100% successful matching rate and this holds true for the data being presented here as well. Residency addresses provided by the birth mother were geocoded directly by the Florida Department of Health. The percentage matched is typically very high (around 90%) and while this number serves as a very good representation of the birth trends within the county it is important to note that the data presented here is a sample of the true total number of births.

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