To Aronson's relief, a chunk of bread immediately flew out of his
baby's mouth. "She started breathing again," he said. "It just happened
so quickly; it scared me."
The video Aronson saw is part of an innovative Kit for New Parents
developed by University of California, Berkeley, researchers and the
California Children and Families Commission as part of an ambitious
parenting education campaign launched this week.
The kit will be distributed free through prenatal programs, hospital
maternity wards, postpartum home visits and other programs to all parents
of the estimated 500,000 babies born in California each year. It is
available in English and Spanish and is part of a larger $25 million
parent education campaign funded by the 1998 state tobacco tax.
The comprehensive resource kit includes six videos produced by film
director Rob Reiner, chair of the California Children and Families
Commission, and a Parents Guide produced by UC Berkeley's Center for
"We believe this kit goes a long way in helping parents provide a
nurturing environment for their children by putting high-quality, practical
resources together in an engaging format," said Linda Neuhauser, a
faculty member at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health and executive
director of the Center for Community Wellness.
In the videos, parents hear from child development experts such as
Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, and from celebrities such as Andy Garcia and
Jamie Lee Curtis. The videos emphasize the importance of a child's
early emotional and cognitive development while addressing such issues
as safety, childcare and nutrition.
Aronson, the Berkeley father, was one of 1,500 Californians who received
a kit as part of a pilot project that began last year. He said he had
practiced the life-saving motions with his daughter while watching
"When I saw the video on first-aid, I knew this (choking) could really
happen," said Aronson. "Babies stick stuff in their mouths all the
time, so I knew it was good to pay attention. It's also easy to follow."
Guiding parents to resources
The kit points parents and caregivers to local and state resources
through the Parents Guide published by UC Berkeley. The guide includes
information about children's health insurance, coping with disabilities,
stress management and domestic abuse.
"Parents don't always know which resources are available to them
and where to go to find help. Here we link the guides into the phone
book and provide Internet addresses so readers know exactly where to
go for information," said Neuhauser, a member of UC Berkeley's Health
Sciences Initiative, a collaboration among researchers throughout the
campus addressing some of today's major health issues.
Evaluating the Kit's Efficacy
As part of the campaign launched this week, the children and families
commission is funding a two-year evaluation of the kit led by Neuhauser.
UC Berkeley researchers have already received positive feedback from
pilot studies of parents who began receiving the Kit for New Parents
a year ago.
In a study of 368 mothers in California who received the kit, 84
percent said they found the kit helpful in caring for their baby and
family. The survey, conducted by the independent Field Research Corp.,
also found that after using the kit for six weeks, 30 percent more
mothers knew about the life-saving practice of putting newborns to
sleep on their backs, and 75 percent more mothers knew how to find
a list of local child care providers.
A study is now underway to compare the parenting knowledge of mothers
in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program who received the kit
with mothers in the program who did not get it. In preliminary results
for mothers who had the kit for six weeks, 96 percent more mothers
knew where to get help to quit smoking, and 25 percent more mothers
knew that babies should sleep on their backs. During the same period,
mothers who did not receive a kit showed no improvement in knowledge
about quitting smoking and a baby's proper sleeping position.
"These results are dramatic," said Neuhauser. "The findings indicate
that the kit is filling a major void by providing valuable information
that many mothers are not getting from other sources."
Expanding the Campaign to Other States
News of the kit's early success has reached beyond California. Shortly
before becoming the director for Homeland Security, former Pennsylvania
Gov. Tom Ridge approved a plan to distribute a similar kit with the
Reiner-produced videos and a guide to all new parents in the state.
The Center for Community Wellness is tailoring the Pennsylvania version
of the Parents Guide for release in December.
Four other states have also expressed strong interest in launching
a similar parent education initiative, said Neuhauser. "The hope is
that this campaign will grow into a national program to provide all
parents in the United States with the resources they need to raise
healthy, happy children," she said.
NOTE: Linda Neuhauser can be reached at 510-643-9177. To arrange
an interview with Hal Aronson, please call Sarah Yang at the UC Berkeley
Media Relations Office at 510-643-7741. The evaluation report on the
pilot program can be found online at http://www.ccfc.ca.gov/stateinfo.htm.
More information about the Kit for New Parents can be found at http://www.ccfc.ca.gov/parentinfo.htm.
Facts about the Kit for New Parents