BY JANET MANDELSTAM
With a focus on the development of healthier families, the IU Health Community Health Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) pairs first-time, low-income, expectant mothers with a registered nurse during pregnancy and through the child’s second birthday.
The free program began in early 2018. “And we should welcome the first babies in late summer and early fall,” Amy Meek, nursing supervisor, says.
NFP has three major goals. “The first is to improve pregnancy outcomes,” Meek says. “Because participants must be less than 28 weeks into their pregnancy, that allows time for behavioral changes such as improving the mother’s diet or curtailing the use of cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs.”
Improving child health is the second goal. Meek notes that Indiana is one of the 10 worst states for infant mortality.
“The third goal is to improve the economic self-sufficiency of the family,” Meek says. This includes setting education and employment goals.
A personal registered nurse visits with the expectant mother—usually in her home—each week or every other week until the baby is born. Visits then continue on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis until the baby’s second birthday. The nurses offer help with breastfeeding, parenting skills, infant development, and child safety. Fathers are encouraged to participate in the visits, if appropriate.
IU Health hired four new RNs for the program. “They did a lot of training,” Meek says. “They completed online modules and spent five days in Colorado,” home of NFP’s national headquarters. The specially trained nurses work in five counties: Greene, Lawrence, Monroe, Orange, and Owen. Each will serve 25 to 30 clients.
Nurse-Family Partnership is a long-standing federal program operating in 42 states and five Native American communities. “There’s almost 40 years of data to back up this work,” Meek says. Research shows that participation in the program leads to reductions in child abuse, emergency room visits, and later behavioral and intellectual problems, while increasing prenatal care, childhood immunizations, and visits to a pediatrician.
The local program is fully funded by the Indiana State Department of Health for two years. “Of course, sustainability is an issue, but right now we want to get the word out about this program and reach those mothers who need it the most,” Meek says.
For more information, visit magbloom.com/iuhealth-nfp.