Forum finds interest in program for new moms

TUPELO – Independent of the national health care reform debate, Mississippi communities have an opportunity to help young mothers and babies.
At a Tuesday forum, Pam Shaw, a senior policy consultant with the Children’s Defense Fund, shared information about the Nurse Family Partnership.
“The next step depends on the political will of the community,” Shaw said after the forum at the BancorpSouth Arena.
The evidence-based program focuses on at-risk, first-time moms during their pregnancy and during the first two years of their child’s life. The program uses registered nurses to work with the moms on their health and their children’s health.
The program began in upstate New York in 1977 and has been replicated in communities across the country, including Memphis.
There is a pilot program in Picayune, Shaw said.
University Medical Center’s pediatrics department has a similar program in the Jackson area and the Delta. The Family Resource Center offers the Parents as Teachers program, where pregnant and new moms get visits from trained social workers.
Mississippi has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the country, and people attending the forum agreed there is a significant gap in medical coverage for new moms. An important component of the Nurse Family Partnership is working with new mothers to prevent repeat pregnancies that are too close, Shaw said.
Medicaid will cover pregnant women, but they only get a six-week postpartum visit after the baby is born.
“We don’t take care of the lady until she’s pregnant with the next baby,” said retired Tupelo pediatrician Dr. Bill Hilbun.
Statewide forums on the Nurse Family Partnership are being held through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. CATCH Kids, which provides school and community based clinics in Lee, Chickasaw and Pontotoc counties, hosted the Tupelo forum.

Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal