Expectant parents in Iowa and beyond will soon have another way to ensure their babies are born healthy, because of the success of a 10-year-old nonprofit group in Des Moines.

 

Healthy Birth Day, a local nonprofit with a Count the Kicks public health campaign is holding a fundraiser and party to launch its new mobile app at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates, 100 Locust St.

 

"We're taking Count the Kicks to the next level and responding to the demand," said Lezlie Mestdagh, outreach coordinator for the campaign. "We want to reach expectant mothers where they're at and bring the program to them."

 

Healthy Birth Day was founded by five local women, including state senator Janet Petersen, after each of them lost daughters to stillbirth or infant death in 2003. In addition to getting Iowa's Stillbirth Registry law enacted and creating a parent-to-parent network for  families immediately following the loss of their babies, Healthy Birth Day - which is almost completely operated by volunteers - also launched Count the Kicks. The campaign encourages women to monitor their baby's movements in the third trimester of pregnancy.

 

Founders modeled Count the Kicks on a campaign in Norway that reduced stillbirths. In Iowa, 234 fetal deaths were recorded in 2006. As of 2012, that number dropped to 174.

 

"It's not just about providing materials," Mestdagh said. "At the end of the day, we're going to save a baby's life."

 

Local groups, including marketing firm Strategic America, publisher Meredith Corp. and the March of Dimes charity helped to print and distribute materials to expectant mothers through clinics, hospitals, and healthcare providers across the state.

 

The campaign has drawn interest from nearly 20 other states and six countries, which prompted the group to pursue a mobile app for Count the Kicks. Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino, Principal Financial Group Foundation and Polk County awarded grants to develop the app.

 

"We would absolutely not be here without the support of the Des Moines business community," said Healthy Birth Day founder Kate Safris. The launch party is open to the public. Donations can also be made online at www.healthybirthday.org.