A new report on the health of babies born in Iowa’s largest county shows mixed results due to problems officials say are statewide. Polk County received a grade of “C” from the group called “Number One Question”, which seeks to determine if babies are being born healthy. Dr. Rizwan Shah says drug use is one of the big problems that’s leading to low birthweight babies.She says we’ve made tremendous efforts in educating the public about the dangers of alcohol and drug use in pregnant women, but we still see “alarming” use of both legal and illegal drugs. Dr. Shah, who works in Des Moines, is considered a nationwide expert on drug abuse in children. Part of her job includes a regional clinic for pregnant women. She says every mother she’s taken care of with drug-exposed children has smoked during pregnancy and used at least two other drugs. Shah says alcohol is the drug most often used by pregnant women. She says alcohol use is not just a concern for college kids, it’s also a concern for adolescent mothers, and she says after a downturn in 2002, the use of methamphetamine has gone up again. Shah says meth use declined as law officers cracked down on meth labs in the big cities, but she says it’s increased as the meth makers moved to smaller towns. She says it’s especially prevalent in the northwest part of the state around Spencer and in the eastern part of the state around Dubuque. Shah says meth puts Iowa in a unique position. She says Iowa is comparable to other states in abuse and neglect issues, except for exposure to methamphetamine, which is higher in Iowa than most other states. Shah says newborn kids aren’t the only ones impacted by parents who use drugs. She says kids living in home where meth is made, cigarettes are smoked and parents use alcohol, face an ongoing problem with neglect as the parents aren’t able to give the kids the attention they need. The Polk County report also shows some social impacts on the health of children, as it says minority women are less likely to get prenatal care that’s important to developing healthy babies.
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