Program combats infant mortality $30,000 grant expands efforts

November 03, 1992|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff Writer

Young pregnant women don't seek needed prenatal care for lots of reasons -- they're poor, they don't know where to go, they don't have transportation.

This week, using a $30,000 grant from the CIGNA Corp., the county health department will expand a program aimed at breaking down these barriers into Brooklyn Park, which now has the highest infant mortality rate in the county.

The program, Healthy Generations, was started three years ago in Glen Burnie, using a state health department grant. At the time, Glen Burnie had the highest infant mortality rate.

Glen Burnie's rate has fallen from 18 deaths in every 1,000 live births in 1986 to 14 deaths per 1,000 in 1989, but the rate remains well above the state average of 11 deaths in every 1,000 births. The national average is nine.

Brooklyn Park has an infant mortality rate of 15 deaths per 1,000 births.

Alice Murray, a public health nurse who coordinates the program, said a national goal has been set to reduce infant deaths to seven out of 1,000 by 2000. She said programs such Healthy Generations play an integral part in meeting that goal.

"It's case management for mothers and their babies," said Ms. Murray, the county's director of clinical services. In addition to helping pregnant women receive prenatal care, the program also offers care for infants during their first year.

"There's a lot of outreach, finding the women and finding out what the barriers are," said Mary O'Malley, public health nurse for the Glen Burnie program. "Sometimes they don't have transportation, as simple as that sounds, so we get them transportation."

The Brooklyn Park program will be run out of that community's public health center on Hammonds Lane. Three public health nurses who work at the center will run the program along with a parents' aide and a social worker.

As in Glen Burnie, the staff will assess a woman's needs after the initial contact, which generally takes place in the woman's home. Women who appear to be at the greatest risk of having low-birth-weight babies or babies with other problems are seen regularly at home by the nurses or social worker.

Some young women are seen as many as three times a week to assure that they are taking good care of themselves and are seeing their doctors for regular prenatal appointments.

Others, who need less intervention, are seen once a week or put into the program's "tracking" system, where health workers chart their progress through their private physicians.

In the Glen Burnie program, staff members see about 40 women for home visits and monitor another 125 through the tracking system. They expect to see about 100 women in the new Brooklyn Park program through both components.

Women interested in Healthy Generations in Glen Burnie or Brooklyn Park should call 222-7244.

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