By Todd Cohen
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Fifty of every 1,000 pregnancies in Forsyth County involves a teen mother, compared to 43 of every 1,000 pregnancies throughout the state, and nearly eight births for every 1,000 in the county result in the death of an infant, with 10.3 percent of all babies born in the region considered low birth-weight, or 5.5 pounds.
To help address those and related problems, Forsyth is joining 16 other counties in the state that are part of a national, evidence-based program that pairs nurses with low-income, first-time mothers, thanks to a five-year, $2.5 million grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in Winston-Salem.
The Foundation has selected the Forsyth County Department of Public Health to lead the initiative, which is known as the Nurse-Family Partnership.
The initiative features regular in-home consultations, with registered nurses working with first-time mothers to improve maternal health, promote healthy child development, and help mothers continue school or find work.
The grant supports a masters-prepared nurse supervisor, four registered nurses and an administrative assistant, with each nurse dedicated to a caseload of 25 mothers at a time.
Home visits for the program, which is free and voluntary for eligible mothers, begin early in pregnancy and continue until a child’s second birthday.
Registered nurses encourage participation from fathers and other family members.
“Nurse-Family Partnership is such an essential resource for vulnerable families, providing knowledge and support at an absolutely critical time,” says Marlon Hunter, Forsyth County health director.
“Decisions made during pregnancy and in the first years after a child’s birth can greatly impact the health of the child and the future of the family,” Hunter says. “Nurse-Family Partnership ensures that our most fragile families have the care they need to get on the right path.”
Randomized, controlled trials conducted over 30 years have found Nurse-Family Partnership resulted in a 79 percent reduction in pre-term delivery for women who smoke; 50 percent reduction in language delays of the child at age 21 months; 48 percent reduction in child abuse and neglect; 46 percent increase in the father’s presence in the household; 32 percent fewer unintended subsequent deliveries; and 20 percent reduction in months on welfare.
Nurse-Family Partnership operates in 16 other North Carolina counties through a public-private partnership that includes the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust; The Duke Endowment; Division of Public Health in the state Department of Health and Human Services; Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation; The North Carolina Partnership for Children; and Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina.
Other counties served by Nurse-Family Partnership are Buncombe, Cleveland, Columbus, Edgecombe, Halifax, Hertford, Gaston, Guilford, McDowell, Mecklenburg, Northampton, Pitt, Polk, Robeson, Rutherford and Wake.