Program to Help Teens Pregnant With First Child

Some 300 first-time, low-income mothers will benefit from a program that provides long-term nurse home visitation services. It's designed to improve the health of their babies and reduce child abuse and neglect. Pat Hernandez has the story.
Texas leads the country in the number of teen pregnancies. Lack of parental care has been linked to low birth weight infants, premature birth, and increased rates of infant mortality. The Texas Nurse-Family Partnership is a program aimed at brand new families.Marianne Erlich is president & CEO of Houston-based Health Family Initiatives. It's the lead agency that will coordinate services.

"This is a unique approach.  It's a family support approach which basically is a home based avenue for bringing health to families who are at risk for poor long term outcomes and for improving outcomes for children as well...health, social, emotional and economic as well."

Nurses bring a medical and public health overlay, that Erlich calls an important component in the success of a child. Services will be delivered through the Baylor College of Medicine Teen Clinics, Texas Children's Health Plan and the City of Houston Department of Health and Human Services. Peggy Smith directs the Teen Health Clinic for Baylor College of Medicine. She says clinics are located in areas of high teen pregnancy and infant mortality.

"The issue associated with infant mortality is significant. And by working in these neighborhoods with the support of the leadership of those neighborhoods, we think we can not only deal with the goals and objectives of the program, but also provide some resiliency for the mother, to give her some assets so that she can pull her life together, and also find social support so that she can rethink the decisions that empower her."

Angelo Giardino is medical director of Texas Children's Health Plan. He says research shows that if you implement the Nurse-Family Program the way it's designed, injuries due to child abuse and neglect decrease.

"The real neat thing about this program is that it also helps the young mother develop a whole set of life skills. It actually changes her life force and, not only does she become a better mother, but she actually develops the ability to learn new work skills, go back to school, get a better job, become a tax payer. It's just a wonderful program that helps both the child and the mother, and really the family. So, this program hits all of those really important parameters that we have, and it really promotes health and wellness."

The goal is to enroll 300-medicaid eligible first time mothers by the 28th week of pregnancy, with at least 60-percent enrolled by the 16th week.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF...Houston Public Radio News.
Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...