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Centering Pregnancy in Albany, Ellenton start infant mortality initiative

A prenatal program in Southwest Georgia receives three-year grant to fight high infant morality rates

ALBANY — Healthcare Georgia Foundation recently announced the launch of its new infant mortality program initiative, Taking Care of You, consistent with its mission to improve the health of all Georgians and to expand access to affordable quality health care services for underserved individuals and communities.

As part of this, some significant funding will be making its way to the Southwest Public Health District.

Building on a previous investment, officials at the foundation say the initiative will provide multi-year, community-level funding as well as technical support and evaluation assistance for the purpose of achieving measureable reductions in adverse birth outcomes among high disparity populations, including but not limited to low-birth weight, prematurity and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

The public health district’s prenatal program, Centering Pregnancy, is among three recipients getting three-year grant awards each totaling $450,000 to help maintain its sites in Albany and Ellenton.

“We are really ecstatic about it,” said Dr. Jacqueline Grant, director of the health district. “…We had to apply for the grant and we are thrilled to be a recipient.”

The funding, Grant said, will go toward technical assistance, social media, as well as the addition of a bilingual clerk and the transition of a nursing position from being partially funded to being fully funded. It will also allow for the addition of a reproductive plan feature for patients in Centering as well as for more data collection and reporting.

“(Data collection and reporting) has been one of the things we are able to do well,” she said. “…It has served us well in applying for funds.”

Grant said there is more funding expected to come in from the March of Dimes, but the amount is not yet known. In all, the program has received more than $250,000 in grant funding from the foundation - with the total amount of funding at over $400,000 to date.

The most recent grant means the program has been earmarked for a total of around $800,000 to date.

Centering was established in Albany in 2009, and in Ellenton in 2011. In all, there have been more than 450 patients seen at the sites with the mean gestational age entering into them being 11 to 14 weeks. The data suggests, Grant said, that there have been 14 preterm births avoided and 62 more women initiating breastfeeding as a result of the Centering presence in Southwest Georgia.

As far as the future of the program goes, the hope is that it can be expanded as improved rates in turn lead to continued funding.

“We’ve got to really work to make sure people know about (the Centering) services,” Grant said. “The program is funded solely on grants. In order to have data, we have to have patient numbers.”

The Georgia Department of Public Health Online Analytical Statistical Information System shows that there were seven deaths in the Southwest Public Health District related to SIDS in 2011, the most recent year data is available, with four of them in Dougherty County.

The other recipients of the $450,000 grants were Clayton County Board of Health for its Every Woman, Every Time Program and the Lowndes County Health Department for its Baby Luv program. In addition, grant awards were given as part of the Taking Care of You initiative to Emory University School of Medicine and Porter Novelli.

“High infant mortality and persistent racial disparities in birth outcomes have been highlighted for decades,” Dr. Gary Nelson, foundation president, said in a statement. “Significant improvements have come about via advancing medical science, effective policies, technology and public health. However, Georgia consistently ranks much lower than the national average.”