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Healthy Families Start with Mom: A Woman’s Journey 2018

Posted on Mar 15, 2018

A whopping 85 percent of women make the health care decisions in households in the United States, and that is why Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital joins forces each year with Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore for A Woman’s Journey. The annual three-day women’s health event recently took place in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota–with the goal of empowering women to take their health into their own hands, because healthy families start with mom. It is also a reminder of an academic research children’s hospital in the community's own backyard.

“When your child, or niece or nephew have a health care issue and you don’t know what to do, you don’t know where to go, it’s a very scary place,” explains Rochelle Nigri, co-chair of A Woman’s Journey–Sarasota. “When you feel like you have a resource, a connector, someone that’s going to introduce you and say ‘This is where you go–this is where you can have that scare taken care of, you feel empowered.’”

This year’s topics led by Johns Hopkins Medicine faculty and physicians, included:

  • The National Opioid Epidemic (Kelly Dunn, M.D.)
  • What Our Genes Reveal (David Valle, M.D.)
  • Microbiome and Probiotics (Cynthia Sears, M.D.)

Following the presentations, there was a Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Panel Discussion in which three physicians discussed how the same presentations affect the pediatric population. Here is a look at the top three takeaways for each topic:

Opioid Epidemic (Sandra Brooks, M.D.)

  • The result of opioid-addicted mothers is that one baby is born every 25 minutes exposed to opioids–this is called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). After birth, these babies often experience withdrawal symptoms, such as shaking/trembling, body stiffness, non-stop crying, sleeplessness and difficulty feeding. They need a lot of care and comforting. 
  • Johns Hopkins All Children’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) cares for 120-150 babies with NAS each year. The NICU cares for these babies by separating them into a group where it is quieter and darker. Specialists (occupational and physical therapists), expert NAS physicians and music therapists can assist during the withdrawal period of these babies. A little more than half of the babies do not need opioids and the specialized care allows for a much shorter hospital stay–nine days vs. the national average 30-day stay.
  • The Johns Hopkins All Children’s Maternal, Fetal and Neonatal Institute realizes that caring for babies born with NAS is simply doing damage control. The team is taking a proactive approach by getting out in the community and educating women, and by doing so, hoping to stop the stigma associated with opioid addiction and assist women in getting the help they need to have healthy pregnancies.

What Our Genes Reveal (Melissa Crenshaw, M.D., FAAP, FACMG) 

  • One of Johns Hopkins All Children’s areas of expertise in clinical genetics is congenital heart disease (CHD), and one in 100 or 40,000 babies are born each year with CHD–each one of these cases is unique.
  • Johns Hopkins All Children’s has a specialized clinic and cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) to care individually for these babies, and physicians begin taking care of them as newborns in the CVICU, which continues through early adulthood–providing individualized care for them through state-of-the art genetic testing.
  • Genetic testing helps to identify the cause of CHD and might also identify other people in the family who may be at risk.

Microbiome and Probiotics (Prabhu Parimi, M.D., M.B.A., C.P.E.)

  • Microbiome is a relatively new field of medicine–we have a community of more than a hundred trillion bacteria residing within and on the surface of our body, which can have major long- and short-term detriment to our health–including babies at the time of birth.
  • An abnormal microbiome is called dysbiosis, which could lead to hypertension, diabetes and excessive weight gain in pregnancy. The results could mean babies who are born small or large and mothers who might be subjected to a cesarean delivery, which changes to the baby’s microbiome, and in some cases, babies need antibiotics, which also changes the baby’s microbiome–this could rev up the whole immune system.
  • The best probiotic? A mother’s breastmilk. 

This year’s A Woman’s Journey program has raised $144,385 to date and will directly benefit the Johns Hopkins All Children’s fetal care program. To learn more about how you can give to our hospital, please visit the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Foundation.


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