From MoutrieObserver.com, Kevin Hall, 26 Nov 2011.
KINGSLAND, Ga. — A health program targeting women who are least likely to have access to prenatal care has taken root in Colquitt County.
Administered by the Southwest (Ga.) Health District and paid for with grants from the March of Dimes, the program is meant to address disparities between groups that qualify for Medicaid and those that do not, according to District Health Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant.
The program uses the CenteringPregnancy model, developed in the 1990s in Connecticut and now used in centers across the country. There are only three sites in Georgia based on this model, and two of the three are operated by the Southwest Health District.
CenteringPregnancy groups pregnant women by their approximate due date. Each group meets with health providers together. The session opens with one-on-one examinations by the physician, which is followed by a group session at which the women learn care skills, participate in a facilitated discussion, and develop a support network with other group members, according to information on the Centering Healthcare Institute’s website.
Grant said she learned of the CenteringPregnancy model during training some years ago and was impressed, but the Southwest Health District participated in a state prenatal program, Babies Born Healthy. As the state entered difficult economic times recently, Babies Born Healthy became a victim of budget cuts.
“That money went away and that program ended,” Grant said.
Without that outreach, health care providers feared they’d start seeing women arriving to give birth without any prenatal care at all, she said. That lack of care shows up in babies born prematurely, which puts them at risk of severe health problems and lifelong disabilities.
“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. “We see these at-risk populations here in our 14-county health district.”
In response, Southwest Health District sought and received a grant from March of Dimes to start a CenteringPregnancy site in Dougherty County. It opened in October 2009. Since then, breastfeeding rates among the clients is higher than among the general population, Grant said, and low-birthweight babies occur about half as often as the baseline.
Last year, the health district received a second grant from March of Dimes, this one to open a center in Colquitt County, which started seeing patients September or October, Grant said.
Each grant is $50,000 per year for three years.
The program is open to anyone who does not qualify for Medicaid, but each site targets a group that has great need of its service: In Dougherty County its African American women, and in Colquitt County it’s Latino farmworkers. Because of its focus, Colquitt County’s program is housed at the Ellenton Farmworker Clinic, which already serves other medical needs in that population.
“Even though the program is targeting a certain group, if a woman is Medicaid-ineligible we will accept them into the program,” Grant said.
Response has been very positive, Grant said. The program has more patients than it can serve.
It is staffed by Grant herself, who is an obstetrician-gynecologist; an interpreter from the Ellenton Clinic; a nurse from the Colquitt County Health Department; and a contracted interpreter from Mitchell County. In addition, Grant said she expects to involve the nurse practitioner at the Ellenton Clinic.
“We’ve started,” she said, “and hopefully we can continue to grow the program.”