Program for At-Risk Infants and Mothers Recognized
June 27, 2007
Baby Love, a social work program for at-risk infants and mothers based out of University of Rochester Medical Center’s Strong Memorial Hospital, has been recognized by the Healthcare Association of New York State as one of the state’s best examples of an institutional commitment to improve the health of the surrounding community.
“It is an honor to be recognized by our peers in the health care community,” said Mardy Sandler, L.M.S.W., director of the Baby Love program. “Baby Love is making a difference in the lives of young women and their families and we are proud of the success that this program has achieved.”
The Baby Love program, which was started in 1988, is a home visit program designed to reduce infant mortality, premature births, low birth weight rates, and foster care placement in poor inner-city neighborhoods. The program works in close partnership with neighborhood based health and social service providers, integrated health service systems, county health and social service agencies, and insurers.
Teams of social workers and outreach workers work with at-risk pregnant women and teens – visiting their homes on a weekly basis – to ensure patients have access to regular health and social services and that their homes are ready for the arrival of the newborn. The outreach teams also help the families secure needed goods and services such as food, clothing, and baby items. Families referred into the program are enrolled as early in the pregnancy as possible and the home visits continue until the child’s third pediatric well care visit. The program is currently seeking funding that would allow it to continue visits until the child enters early childhood education.
The Baby Love program emerged from a community-wide effort to respond to the health challenges facing inner-city families and the program is an integral part of two community-wide initiatives – the Rochester Early Enhancement Program and Rochester Healthy Start. Rochester currently ranks eleventh in the nation in the number of children living in poverty. Low birth weight rates for city residents are twice as high as those who live in the suburbs and the infant mortality rate is three times higher.
Baby Love serves approximately 200 medically and psychosocially at-risk pregnant women and teens, their newborns, and families per year and has demonstrated that this model of direct, home-based intervention can be highly successful. Since 2002 the Baby Love program has provided outreach service to high-risk pregnant women for the Monroe Plan for Medical Care, a local health management organization that primarily serves low-income individuals and the working poor. In subsequent years the Monroe Plan experienced a 60% drop in its neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) admission rates. Another pilot project using Baby Love outreach workers has reduced the disparity in NICU admission rates between African-American and white teens.