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Georgia Program Data May Provide Clues to Healthy Babies

September 3, 2013

Originally published July 25, 2011

The reason some babies are born healthy and others are not may lie in a study in Georgia according to researchers and public health officials. 

A report published in the May 2011 issue of Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine could potentially influence whether inactivated (not live) flu vaccines are administered to pregnant women in developing countries. The study of 4,326 women and their newborns, showed a protective effect of flu vaccination in pregnancy on prematurity throughout the flu season and on birth weight when the flu activity was at its peak.

Until recently, Georgia and Rhode Island were the only two states to collect the data on pregnant women and flu vaccinations. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other Global Health organizations are exploring influenza immunization in pregnancy as a strategy to improve maternal and newborn health outcomes in developing countries. 

It is important to minimize any possible infections to pregnant women because infections could cause prematurity and the baby being small for gestational age. The researchers of this study set out to determine if there was an association between women receiving inactivated influenza vaccine during pregnancy and positive birth outcomes for their babies in Georgia. The results show that there was an association between maternal immunization with the inactivated influenza vaccine during pregnancy and reduced likelihood of prematurity during local, regional, and widespread influenza activity periods. 

The data came from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), a Georgia statewide, ongoing survey/surveillance system that collects information on women who give birth in Georgia. The purpose of the study is to find out why some babies are born healthy and others are not. PRAMS is a research project sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Georgia Department of Public Health.

To assess behaviors, about 200 women in Georgia every month are asked to participate in the study by completing a questionnaire about their attitudes, experiences, and behaviors before, during, and after they deliver a live born infant. The mothers are randomly selected from the state’s Vital Records birth certificate registry and their responses are aggregated. There are core questions that are asked by all states and there are customized questions allowed by each state. The customized questions are determined by Georgia PRAMS’ project staff. According to Dr. Yan Li, PRAMS coordinator and Epidemiologist III of Maternal and Child Health, the staff reaches out to state programs between February 1 and March 31 each year to ascertain if they would like to include some questions specific to their programs.