The Current Health Status of Our Babies

While maternal and infant health has been improving over time, Onondaga County continues to face challenges.
These problems include racial and ethnic disparities related to adolescent pregnancy and breastfeeding rates, preterm birth, low birth weight, substance use in pregnancy, and infant mortality.

Source: CHA/CHIP 2017.

Figure 1: Despite Onondaga County having low birth weight rates that are comparable to New York State (7.6%), there are substantial disparities in these birth outcomes by race and ethnicity in Onondaga County. The rate among non- hispanic blacks (12.8%) is more than double the rate among non-hispanic whites (6.3%).

Figure 2: The infant mortality rate among the black population in Onondaga County (14.8 infant deaths per 1,000 live births) is substantially higher than among the white population in Onondaga County: 4.4 infant deaths per 1,000 live births).

Notes: Figure 3: The Onondaga County newborn drug-related diagnosis rate has increased over the last three years. Onondaga County has the third highest rate in New York State as of 2014. The rate is 300.6 births per 10,000 discharges. 

What is Healthy Families?

Onondaga County Health Department's Healthy Families is a home visiting program that matches parents with knowledgeable and caring workers who provide information and support during pregnancy and early childhood. The home visiting programs within Healthy Families offer visits from Public Health Nurses, Public Health Social Workers, Community Health Workers, Doulas, and a Fatherhood Worker.

What happens during a home visit?

Health education


Goal setting

Referrals to community services


Health system navigation

Short term mental health support

What can we help with?

Healthy Families offers services for infants, children, new moms, and parents including:

Benefit Applications

Prenatal Education, Baby growth and development & Breastfeeding support

Services for children under 5 who have a developmental delay or disability

Domestic violence issues

Family planning

Finding a daycare, Finding a dentist, & Finding a doctor for you and your baby

Lead testing


Parenting for moms and dads

Referrals for mental health, depression, substance abuse, and alcohol issues

"She helped me know what was going to happen before labor and even when after the baby comes. I’m happy she will be with me for two years." -Healthy Families participant


Benefits of Breastfeeding:

For Babies:

Protection against gastrointestinal infections.
Early initiation of breastfeeding, within 1 hour of birth, protects the newborn from acquiring infections and reduces newborn mortality.
Breast milk can provide half or more of a child’s energy needs between the ages of 6 and 12 months.

Breast milk is also a critical source of energy and nutrients during illness, and reduces mortality among children who are malnourished.

Children and adolescents who were breastfed as babies are less likely to be overweight or obese.

Babies who were breastfed perform better on intelligence tests and have higher school attendance.

Breastfeeding is associated with higher income in adult life.

For Moms:

Reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancer.
Helps space pregnancies–exclusive breastfeeding of babies under 6 months has a hormonal effect which often induces a lack of menstruation.

Reduces the risk of postpartum depression.

Notes: Source: World Health Organization. 2017

Notes: Figure 4: This is the rate of Healthy Families clients in the City of Syracuse who breastfed per year. Since 2004, rates have increased 17.5%, from 46.6% to 64.1%.

What does a lactation consultant do?

The Healthy Start program has lactation consultants available to assist clients. Lactation consultants are professional breastfeeding specialists trained to help mothers successfully breastfeed their baby. They help women experiencing breastfeeding problems, such as latching difficulties, painful nursing, and low milk production. A lactation consultant also helps babies who aren't gaining enough weight.

Substance Abuse:

As perinatal substance abuse is a growing problem in Onondaga County, the County's Drug Task Force is working with Syracuse Healthy Families to connect families with resources to combat drug addiction.

Notes: Figure 5: This chart depicts the percent of people enrolled in the Healthy Families program who used drugs during their pregnancy. Since 2004, there has been an 11% increase of drug use during pregnancy among program participants.  

My family is not here, they come from a different country….Healthy Families has been my family because my family is far.

WIC and Nutrition:

As a part of Onondaga's Healthy Families program, WIC (women, infant, and children) clinics are located throughout the County. WIC saves lives and improves the health of nutritionally at-risk women, infants and children.

Notes: Figure 6:  The WIC program improves the level of nutrition of Pregnant Moms and babies. High levels of Syracuse Healthy Families participants are enrolled in the WIC program, often assisted by program staff.

What does WIC do?

It has been found that every dollar spent on prenatal WIC participation for low-income Medicaid eligible women in 5 States resulted in:

-fewer premature births

-lower incidence of moderately low and very low birth weight infants;

-fewer infant deaths;

-a greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care; and

-savings in health care costs from $1.77 to $3.13 within the first 60 days after birth

Source: USDA, 2017.