Upstate News

June 16, 2008
Doretta Royer 315 464-4833

SUNY Upstate Medical University program succeeds at reducing premature births

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A SUNY Upstate Medical University program designed to reduce the incidence of premature or low-birth weight babies and of infant mortality in Onondaga County is being credited for reducing the number of premature births and for increasing the use of folic acid supplements among high-risk women, according to organizers.

The program, “Patient Navigation and Education for High Risk Women,” was created in May 2007 by SUNY Upstate’s Center for Maternal and Child Health (CMATCH) of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology through a one-year $50,000 grant from the March of Dimes. Program participants were women of child-bearing age who were referred by the Syracuse Community Treatment Court.

“All seven of the babies of mothers who participated in our program this year were born healthy and full-term, which underscores the need for this type of program in our county and which accounts for one of the many successes our program has achieved,” said one of the program coordinators, Mary Jensen, M.S.W., a behavioral specialist in SUNY Upstate’s Department of Obstetrics/Gynecology. Program participants included 110 women.

Among the program’s main objectives was to increase awareness among program participants of the importance of using a folic acid supplement as part of pre-natal care.

“To meet our first objective, we developed a folic acid knowledge and awareness pre- and post-test that was culturally relevant and at an appropriate literacy level,” Jensen said. “Overall, 89.7 percent of our participants scored higher on the post-test than on the pre-test.”
Findings from a survey developed to measure the use of folic acid by participants showed that 64 percent of the participants who responded reported an on-going use of folic acid, up from 26.2 percent who reported the use of folic acid upon the initial interview. Folic acid helps to prevent neural tube birth defects, such as spina bifida. Without folic acid, women may increase their chance of miscarriage or stillbirths.

The program also helped ensure that all pregnant participants had a healthcare provider. Prior to the program, 81 percent of the pregnant participants reported having a healthcare provide.
“When asked, we will accompany our pregnant program participants to their medical appointments to advocate for them as well as reinforce recommendations given by their medical providers,” Jensen said.
“We have seen an increase in the number of our participants who visit our office with questions about their healthcare, which tells us that they have a better understanding of the care that they are receiving.”

To achieve its final objective, program staff developed a pre- and post-test to determine participants’ knowledge and use of preconception/interconception care (PIC). “We purchased pamphlets, posters and information sheets from the March of Dimes and converted our existing PIC form that provides information about quality healthcare into one that was more client friendly,” said Jensen. “We reviewed these materials with each program participant. Our clients scored 53.4 percent higher on the post-test than on the pretest.”

Operating in conjunction with the Syracuse Community Treatment Court (SCTC), the program offers women who are referred by SCTC caseworkers with a variety of free, confidential services that guide them through the stages of preconception, conception to delivery, and through a child’s first year of life. Richard Aubry, M.D., serves as the program’s medical director.

Jensen hopes to continue the program after the grant period ends in January 2009. We hope to build upon the success of this project and expand our services to include other women who are receiving supervision from the Probation Department, but who are not a part of the SCTC.”

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