N.C. tackling infant mortality

From Jen Algire, Executive Director, Community Health Services in Charlotte:

North Carolina is consistently ranked among the best places to live and work, yet there is one ranking we can not be proud of – our infant mortality rates.

Statistics released earlier this month show our infant mortality rate is on the rise, up from 8.1 per 1,000 live births in 2007 to 8.5 in 2008. This ranks North Carolina 5th in the nation in infant mortality. Mecklenburg County is only slightly below the state average with 6.5 infant deaths per every 1,000 births.

North Carolina is not waiting to take action. Thanks to the forward thinking of The Duke Endowment and Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, our state is taking steps to address this issue. The two groups, in partnership with several nonprofit and government organizations, including the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public Health, North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc. and Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina, have made a significant seven-year investment to transform the lives of first-time, low-income parents and their children.

Partnerships working

The program, called Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), expanded to seven more counties in our state, including Mecklenburg County, earlier this summer. NFP and its partners in the state are working to expand to even more counties in the near future.

Under the program, first-time mothers meet with registered nurses early in their pregnancies. Nurse home visits continue through the child's second birthday.

Registered nurses visit weekly for the first month after enrollment and then every other week until the baby is born. Visits are weekly for the first six weeks after the baby is born, and then every other week until the child is 20 months old. The last four visits are monthly until the child is two years old.

Improving outcomes

The program goals are:

Improve pregnancy outcomes by helping women engage in preventive health practices, including obtaining thorough prenatal care from their health care providers, improving their diets, and reducing their use of cigarettes, alcohol and illegal substances;

Improve child health and development by helping parents provide responsible and competent care; and

Improve families' economic self-sufficiency by helping parents develop a vision for their own futures, plan future pregnancies, continue their educations and find work.

Communities benefit

Independent research proves that not only do mothers and children benefit from Nurse-Family Partnership relationships, but communities do as well. Every dollar invested in NFP can yield more than five dollars in return.

North Carolina is committed to reducing the infant mortality rate. The North Carolina Nurse-Family Partnership has great potential to address this important issue in our state and to positively impact the lives of our children and families.