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Focus group to form for 'My Baby's Breath' project

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news Brainerd, 56401
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

A focus group of pregnant and other at-risk girls is being formed to weigh in on a new prevention strategy for prenatal exposure to alcohol.

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The first-of-its-kind strategy is called “My Baby’s Breath.” It aims to halt prenatal exposure to alcohol by using monitored cellphone breathalyzers to keep tabs on alcohol levels in pregnant teenagers (who have used alcohol during the pregnancy) or other at-risk pregnant women.

The idea of My Baby’s Breath was first unveiled in late January. It’s headed by Healthy Brains for Children, a group that’s focused on ending the prenatal exposure to alcohol. It’s the same group that recently headed an effort to install pregnancy test dispensers in a few local bars, a gas station and The Shop.

In the next couple of weeks, a focus group will meet to weigh in on the research project.

Heading the group will be Brainerd School District nurse Aimee Jambor and Brainerd Learning Center principal Jessica Haapajoki.

The pair will pull in between eight to 12 girls, ages 15-18. They will be Brainerd area girls, whom the pair have worked with in the past.

The girls will openly discuss the idea of My Baby’s Breath, weighing in on what they think about the program and what could be changed. They’ll also go over topics like drinking while pregnant and pregnancy test dispensers, said Healthy Brains for Children Executive Director Julie Frederick.

“They might suggest or come up with something that we as adults didn’t dream or think of,” she said.

Frederick added, “I expect funny responses. Critical ones. Innovative. They think outside the box. That’s what I’m hoping for.”

Of that focus group, Frederick hopes a couple of girls will join the study.

Here’s how it works:

• A county or school official identifies a mother-to-be who is consuming alcohol, and can request she be enrolled in the program. (Parental consent is needed for the voluntary enrollment)

• Breathalyzers and cellphones will be provided for the women.

• The pregnant women will get a daily text sent to her cellphone indicating she has 45 minutes to do the breathalyzer test. As she does so, a photo is taken to make sure the right person is taking the test. The photo and test results are sent via text to the monitoring company.

There will be periodic incentives for those who remain alcohol-free.

Those incentives will likely come in the form of gift cards or Brainerd Bucks, which will increase in value as the girls continue to test negative for alcohol. The incentives will start over should the girls test positive for alcohol.

Healthy Brains for Children will use the information gathered at the focus group and implement it as soon as possible, Frederick said.

She hopes to get one or two pregnant teens in the program before the end of the school year.

JESSICA LARSEN may be reached at jessica.larsen@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brainerdnews.

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