District combats premature births with education

From the Southwest Public Health District

Each year, more than half a million babies in the United States are born too soon, placing them at risk of severe health problems and lifelong disabilities, says Southwest Health District Health Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant.

"Among those most at risk are children born in medically underserved communities such as those of rural African American women and Hispanic farmworkers," said Grant, who is an OB-GYN. "We see these at-risk populations here in our 14-county health district."

November is Prematurity Awareness Month. "Southwest Health District wants to raise awareness that premature birth is the No. 1 killer of newborns," Grant said. "We are using this educational opportunity to let people know that our country's premature birthrate has risen by 36% over the last 25 years. That's cause for concern."

Premature births cost society more than $26 billion a year and take a high toll on families, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."In our health district, one way we are addressing premature births is by offering the CenteringPregnancyR prenatal model of care, which has a proven track record of improving birth outcomes and reducing premature births - especially in underserved minority communities," Grant said. "We began offering CenteringPregnancyR at the Dougherty County Health Department, and this year we expanded the program to a second site in Colquitt County at the Ellenton Farmworker Program."

She said CenteringPregnancyR delivers obstetrical care in a group setting, but also allows patients one-on-one time with their healthcare provider. "It empowers women to be proactive with their health and the health of their baby from preconception throughout the birth process and beyond."

Participants learn about topics such as nutrition and breastfeeding, take their own blood pressure and weight, enjoy healthy snacks and participate in activities designed to prompt discussion. The Centering staff includes a board-certified OB-GYN, nurse-practitioners, certified nurse midwives, nurses and administrative staff.Additional benefits include access to services such as WIC, pharmacy, perinatal case management (PCM), and postpartum family planning.

For more information, contact the Dougherty program at 229-430-6260 or the Colquitt program at 229-324-2845.