A significant disparity in the health of New York City’s babies exists. While the city’s infant mortality rates are at an all-time low, the most recent city statistics show wide gaps in infant health across socioeconomic lines. One stark example: eight infants die for every 1,000 black babies born; yet only three do for every 1,000 whites babies born. The same data shows that areas with low access to prenatal healthcare and poor infant health outcomes are also those with high rates of poverty.
The Nurse-Family Partnership, a program based on a model started in the 1970s by medical professor David Olds of the University of Colorado-Denver, is trying to improve the health of mothers and their babies. In the highly vetted program, specially trained nurses visit first-time, Medicaid-eligible mothers in their homes from the time of pregnancy until their child is two years old.
Nurse-Family Partnership launched in New York City in 2003, and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene now funds seven Nurse-Family Partnership sites across the city, serving nearly 1,800 new moms. In addition, Montefiore Medical Center has its own Nurse-Family Partnership.
By coming directly to the home for visits, the program’s nurses are able to keep a continuity of contact with mothers, who might otherwise get infrequent care, according to the New York City Nurse-Family Partnership director, Roberta Holder-Mosley.
“Our clients are poor, quite poor, the employment rate for our clients is relatively low. They are on the fringes of the society,” said Holder-Mosley. And apart from increasing access to healthcare, she said, the program “helps to
break the cycle of poverty.”