2013 Little Giraffe Foundation Neonatal Grant Awards

After long deliberations, the Little Giraffe Foundation (LGF) decided to fund 5 initiatives for 2013, totaling over $15,000. 2 Neonatal Research Grants to forward medical care for premature babies and 3 NICU Support Grants designed to improve the lives of the families and babies in the NICU.


Neonatal Research Grants

Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School - $7,500 Awarded

For the second year running, LGF has chosen to support the research of Dr. Amir Lahav. We are extremely passionate about the work that Dr. Lahav and his team are doing.  They are amazingly committed to this initiative and have already made some remarkable discoveries.  Their research is unique and refreshing in that it is non-invasive and comforting for the babies who are so ill. We are hopeful that with this additional support from LGF, the Lahav Lab will collect the additional data needed to encourage other hospitals to implement these protocols. 

Research: Improving weight gain, feeding, and cardiorespiratory outcomes in very low birthweight preterm infants by providing them with a more womb-like environment
Emily Zimmerman, PhD, CCC-SLP and Amir Lahav, ScD, PhD

To examine if providing very low birthweight (VLBW; <1500g) infants with maternal stimulation, consisting of both sounds and vibrations, during their Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) hospitalization will improve their weight gain, feeding skills, and cardiorespiratory outcomes.
Forty VLBW infants will be randomly assigned to stay in either a Vibro-Acoustic Bed (VAB) or a Routine Hospital Bed (RHB) throughout the course of their NICU stay. Infants in the VAB group will receive maternal stimulation via innovative vibro-acoustic technology. The VAB provides infants with: (1) auditory stimulation of their mother’s voice via micro-audio speakers installed at the bedside; and (2) vibro-tactile stimulation of their mother’s heartbeat via micro-subwoofers embedded within the mattress of the infant’s bed. Infants randomized to the RHB group will receive the standard care and serve as controls.

We hypothesize that exposure to maternal stimulation, consisting of both sounds and vibrations, will provide VLBW infants with the essential womb-like environment necessary to complete their normal maturation outside of the womb and will have immediate short term effects on weight gain, feeding, and cardiorespiratory outcomes. In the long term, our research may increase the potential of sick babies to develop into healthy children, free of disability.

MidAtlantic Neonatology Associates, Atlantic Health Systems - $5,000 Awarded

Research: Assessing the Association between Apolipoprotien E Genotype and Neurodevelopmental Outcomes in a High-Risk and Preterm Infant Population

Diego Iacono, MD, PhD – Neurologist, pathologist, BRInj and AHS
Sunita Goil, MD – Neonatologist, MANA
Tosan Livingstone, MD – Child Development Clinic, AHS
Tara Gleeson, NP – Child Development Clinic, AHS

Recent data suggests that Apolipoprotein E (ApoE) plays a central role in brain development, plasticity and health, and that various distributions of its three isoforms may be either detrimental or neuroprotective for certain neurological conditions. The neonatal population has been largely unrepresented in studies of ApoE allelic distribution, despite the fact that these high-risk infants routinely present with poor neurodevelopmental outcomes.

Our study was designed to bridge that gap; to more clearly understand whether ApoE affects long-term clinical outcomes within the neonatal population. In particular, we hope this study will provide the initial clinical evidence to support mechanistic studies of ApoE’s role in early development, and will allow neonatal care staff and developmental pediatricians to  better serve the high-risk infant population in the future.


NICU Support Grants

Community Food Bank of Central Alabama - $1,000 Awarded

Community Food Bank of Central Alabama’s (CFBCA) NICU Food Pantry, serving University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

The UAB NICU has 91 individual rooms able to accommodate 106 babies. Babies born premature stay in the NICU on an average of 16 weeks. Often times, parents either go without eating due to the costs associated with each meal or nursing staff offer to pay for the parents’ meals. This partnership between UAB and CFBCA seeks to alleviate the unnecessary pressures for food-insecure families by providing a pantry filled with microwavable, convenient, and nutritionally-appropriate meals for families that qualify for food assistance. 

This discreet pantry will be available to parents on an as needed basis during their hospital stay. Additionally, thanks to our Produce in Pantries initiative, the CFBCA aims to provide fresh fruit and vegetables whenever possible. Additionally, we aim to eventually expand the program so that when families are discharged from the hospital, they will have an opportunity to take a week’s worth of groceries home. This will alleviate the pressures of feeding their family, which gives more time to reinstate food assistance programs once back home, as well as provides more time spent with their little one and each other.

HealthConnect One, Chicago, IL - $1,000 Awarded

Helping NICU Families Bond with their Babies at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital

HealthConnect One has partnered with John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital since our founding, recognizing how many women and children living in poverty are served by this institution.  Premature babies cared for in the NICU rely on the support of their mothers to provide skin to skin contact and breastfeeding to increase chance of survival.  In addition, it has been found that very premature babies who received breast milk soon after birth had higher mental development scores at 30 months and were less likely to be re-hospitalized than premature babies who did not receive breast milk.  These women urgently need expert, culturally-sensitive support to encourage increased rates of breastfeeding. We launched a program targeting this population in March of 2012, and have committed to maintaining and improving the program through calendar 2013 and beyond.

The LGF grant will provide funding for transportation, by way of CTA cards or parking waivors, for the mothers and peer counselors involved with the program. This will provide the mothers the ability to come and visit their infants in the NICU to bond, provide breast milk and do skin to skin. This Peer Counselor Program within Stroger’s NICU strongly aligns with the Little Giraffe’s mission to provide help and support for NICU families.

Advocate Children's Hospital, Park Ridge, IL - $800 Awarded

Helping NICU Families at Lutheran General Hospital Visit Their Babies

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Advocate Children’s Hospital - Park Ridge provides extensive care for premature births or infants born with medical complications.  There are 54 beds within this state-of-the art special care facility.  Our NICU has received a Level IV designation for the highest level of treatment for newborns with the most complex of medical conditions. Many families reside at a considerable distance from the closest hospital that can provide the best care their infant needs. The Little Giraffe Foundation funding will provide gas cards to parents to enable them an opportunity to visit from far distances without the financial stress.

Documenting daily routines or special events would enhance parent’s precious memory collection.  This is especially important for those parents who are not able to be consistently present or for very young siblings who are not yet permitted to visit. The funding from LGF will allow the purchase of a digital camera for exclusive use in the NICU to capture special occasions as well as precious moments when the parents cannot be with their baby.

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