Upstate News

May 22, 2007
Doretta Royer 315 464-4833

SUNY Upstate, March of Dimes partner on program to ensure healthy babies

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A new program to help reduce the incidence of premature or low birth weight babies and infant mortality in Onondaga County has been developed by SUNY Upstate Medical University through a one-year $50,000 grant, potentially renewable, from the March of Dimes.

The program was created and developed by SUNY Upstate’s Center for Maternal and Child Health (CMATCH) of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and operates in conjunction with the Syracuse Community Treatment Court (SCTC).

Titled “Patient Navigation and Education for High Risk Women,” the program is aimed at women of childbearing age whose lifestyles place them at high risk for experiencing poor birth outcomes.

“To help ensure that babies are born healthy, we are offering women who are referred to the program by the Syracuse Community Treatment Court with a variety of free, confidential services that will successfully guide them through the stages of preconception, conception to delivery, and through a child’s first year of life,” said the program’s director, Richard Aubry, M.D., M.P.H., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at SUNY Upstate and director of CMATCH. The program serves as a model for a case management, patient navigation and education service.

Program services address many issues of maternal and child health that are faced by women who are part of the SCTC system. The women are at risk for poor birth outcomes due to negative social, economic, cultural, safety and health factors associated with substance abuse and/or prostitution.

The program staff comprises a director, coordinator and case manager/nurse. The program office, donated by Syracuse City Court Judge Jeffrey Merrill, is located in Syracuse’s Public Safety Building.

According to Program Coordinator Mary Jensen, the women receive educational materials, including folic acid education that is provided to all women under the age of 45 who are involved with SCTC.

“We provide each of our participants with a copy of the ?Preparing for a Healthy Baby’ worksheet that was developed at CMATCH,” said Jensen, a behavioral specialist in SUNY Upstate’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “We review the document with each woman and encourage her to bring it to her women’s health appointments.”

Program staff will also help find physicians for all participants who are pregnant and/or parenting a child less than one year of age. “In addition to making referrals, we act as a patient navigator by accompanying each woman who wants this service to her health service, prenatal and post-partum visits,” said Jensen. “We’re there to assist our clients as they navigate a world that can be both complex and intimidating.”

The program’s case manager/nurse, Jeannette LaSala, also offers support to the client during these appointments and also reinforces medical recommendations between appointments.

“We strive to empower our clients, through education and encourage them to use their medical appointments as a means to have their questions or concerns addressed,” said Jensen. “We believe that through these interventions, we will see improved medical treatment compliance in this entire group of women.”

Between July 2005 and July 2006, 197 women enrolled in the SCTC. More than half reported a drug history of more than seven years; more than 60 percent reported not having completed high school and approximately 60 percent reported having minor children. “We conservatively estimate that we will meet with an average of 150 women per project-year for education and 25 for case management,” Jensen said.

The goal of SUNY Upstate’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and its CMATCH is to use education, research and patient care to improve the outcome of pregnancy.

The SCTC, part of the Syracuse City Court system, integrates chemical dependency treatment and the criminal justice system. Services such as the SUNY Upstate/March of Dimes program are an essential part of the SCTC and are incorporated into the SCTC program based on the recognition that the effective treatment and relapse prevention must address all areas of life functioning, including women and maternal/child health.

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