Funding for infant health program will end

Funding for infant health program will end
April 06
06:30 2017



A program that helped Forsyth County reach historically low infant mortality rates will see its current funding end this year.

The Nurse-Family Partnership is an initiative of the Forsyth County Health Department, in which nurses visit the homes of vulnerable first-time mothers living in poverty. The visits start early in pregnancy and continue until the child’s second birthday with the goal of improving pregnancy outcomes, child health and development, and family self-sufficiency. The program greatly reduced preventable deaths for both the children and their mothers.

“We’re saving mom’s lives and we’re saving babies lives and we’re changing the trajectory of that whole family into the future,” Nurse-Family supervisor Christine Wanous told county commissioners  in a briefing last month.

The program, which has a $607,000 budget, is mainly funded by a five-year grant by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust that runs out this summer. The program, which also receives some state funds, can sustain itself through November or December.

Public Health Director Marlon Hunter told commissioners that Nurse-Family Partnership has complimented the other local programs aimed at improving infant health and has proven itself through results.

Forsyth County had consistently been above the state average on infant mortality for years before a successful push in recent years reversed the trend. When Nurse-Family Partnership started in 2012, the county had a rate of 10.2 deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2014 and 2015, the county had historically low infant mortality rates of 6.4 and 7.1 deaths per 1,000 live births.

More than 260 families have been served by the pro-gram, but that’s only a fraction of the 1,160 referrals the program has received. It has five nurses, which can serve 125 mothers at a time.

“There’s a big demand for Nurse-Family Partnership in our community and that has resulted in constantly having a waiting list,” said Wanous.

Commissioner Everette Witherspoon said the program was much needed and hoped it could find another foundation grant to keep it going.

“I think Nurse-Family Partnership is one of the best programs in Forsyth County,” he said.

County staff will be asking the commissioners to consider funding the program. Right now the county only provides in-kind support, like office space, to the program. Since current funds will last up until November or December, the program will need about $310,000 for the rest of its next fiscal year. This is a relatively small amount compared to the Health Department’s $23.76 million budget, but Hunter said it would have a big impact on public health.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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