Pitt County program for low-income mothers improving birth results in program's first year

Pitt County program for low-income mothers improving birth results in program's first year

New Bern, NC –

INTRO - A Pitt County program looking to improve birth outcomes for the children of low-income mothers enters its second year hoping to build on the 27 success stories from year number one. George Olsen has more

When the Nurse-Family Partnership was announced in May 2009, its goal was to help the state remove itself from a top-ten list no one wants to be a part of U-S Census Bureau figures from 2006 ranked North Carolina with the 8th highest infant mortality rate in the nation with 8.1 deaths for every 1000 live births compared to a national rate of 6.7. One year into the Nurse-Family Partnership program in Pitt County so far, so good.

"We've had healthy babies so far. I don't think any of these children have been needing neo-natal intensive care."

Dr. John Morrow, the director of public health in Pitt County. The program in year one has witnessed 27 births with 89% delivered at full-term and 86% with birth weights over 2500 grams. That's good for mother & child as well as the medical system.

"NFP for instance, the return on investment is about $5 for every $1 invested. A poor outcome pregnancy is extremely expensive with very high costs at the hospital for neo-natal intensive care units and such, so this is a very good preventive program for mothers and children."

Dr. Morrow says one of the main risk factors for a poor pregnancy is a lack of a support system. The Nurse-Family Partnership attempts to fill that gap. A Partnership nurse will do home visits with the mother and her family on a weekly or every-other-week basis from the mother's voluntary enrollment in the program until the child's 2nd birthday, trying to give a first-time mother the information she'll need to have a successful pregnancy and healthy baby.

"That really runs the whole spectrum. It's everything from breast feeding, proper prenatal care, exercise, nutrition, medical issues around the pregnancy, complications during the pregnancy, life skills in terms of economics to be a mother and raise a child, helping them plan with their work, helping them find employment, helping them with other programs that they may be available for such as WIC or food stamps, so its really a very broad spectrum of things that these nurses work with the moms on."

That type of intensive work with the mother is particularly important with the women the Nurse-Family Partnership typically works with the median age is 19, 84% are unmarried, only 50% have completed high school and the median household income is just $13,500. Dr. Morrow says the women the Pitt County Nurse Family Partnership have been working with are a little older than the national median most of the women are in the 20-to-24 age group. He says the results of the program nationally are something to aspire to locally.

"Over the 30 years the NFP has been in existence in the U-S some of the outcomes are quite amazing in terms of higher high school graduation rates, decreased convictions for criminal acts both in the children and the parents, decreased domestic violence occurrence or complaints, so its really very broad, its more than just a health program, it improves the life of both the mother and children."

The Pitt County program has a capacity to serve 100 mothers. Currently it's serving 72 though Dr. Morrow says they only became fully staffed in February and are now adding clients at a rate of 1-to-2 a week. Staffing has been the major hurdle so far training the nurses is pretty intensive and requires a trip out to Colorado where the national Nurse Family Partnership is headquartered. But to date Dr. Morrow says everything has run fairly smoothly other than one anomaly in the birth statistics.

"I know that we've had for some reason 18 of the 27 have been female which is kind of unusual so the girls are outnumbering the men by two-to-one."

Dr. John Morrow is the director of public health for Pitt County. I'm George Olsen.