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Have a new baby, get a free kit: Education package UC Berkeley researchers helped develop goes to California parents
02 November 2001

By Sarah Yang, Media Relations

Berkeley - Hal Aronson was enjoying a family outing at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park in mid-October when he noticed that his 6-month-old daughter, Rachel, was choking and had stopped breathing. Instead of panicking, Aronson, a Berkeley resident, remembered the first-aid techniques he recently saw in a video received when Rachel was born. "I lowered her head down below her body, and I gave her a whack on her back between the shoulder blades," he said.

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 Community Wellness.

"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 the video.

"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 More information about the Kit for New Parents can be found at

Facts about the Kit for New Parents


  • Six educational videos produced by Rob Reiner, chair of the California Children and Families Commission and founder of the I Am Your Child Campaign. The video topics are: "The First Years Last Forever," "Ready to Learn," "Quality Child Care," "Safe From the Start," "Your Healthy Baby," and "Discipline."
  • A Parents Guide produced by UC Berkeley's Center for Community Wellness at the School of Public Health. The guide provides information on how parents can access local and statewide resources, including free or low-cost health insurance for children.
  • A set of parenting brochures developed by the CCFC.
  • A book called Counting With Animals, written by Brian Wildsmith.

Features of the Kit:

  • Advice from child development experts T. Berry Brazelton, MD, and Antonia Novello, MD.
  • Videos feature such celebrities as Andy Garcia, Phylicia Rashad, Jamie Lee Curtis, Cristina Saralegui, Gloria Estefan, Maria Shriver, Edward James Olmos and Le Var Burton.
  • The Parents Guide summarizes information in the videos and brochures, and provides details on how to find local resources, toll-free numbers and websites for various government and non-profit organizations.
  • The kit provides practical tips on breastfeeding, lowering the risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and using car safety seats.
  • Kits available in Spanish and English.

Making the Kit Available:

  • In California, the kit will be distributed through hospitals, doctors' offices, prenatal programs, postpartum home visit programs, childcare centers, and through other programs.
  • Parents can also receive a free kit by calling toll-free 800-KIDS-025.

About the Parents Guide:

The Parents Guide is one in a series of successful resources produced by the Center for Community Wellness. The Wellness Guide series is now distributed to more than three million Californians. The guides were developed through extensive feedback from thousands of community members and many health and social service experts.

Background on the CCFC:

The CCFC was formed after voters passed the 50-cent tobacco tax initiative in 1998. The initiative, authored by Rob Reiner, provides funding for education and health programs that promote early childhood development.