District of Columbia Launches Nurse Visit Program to Reduce Infant Mortality
To keep infant mortality rates on the decline, District of Columbia health officials have created a program in which nurses will attempt to visit the homes of every newborn in the city, the Washington Post reports. For the last 10 years, the district's infant mortality rate has "fallen steadily." The rate in 1998, the latest year for which statistics are available, was 12.5 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 14.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1996. Other cities have adopted similar visiting programs with the belief that "women may feel less threatened if they receive ... information on their own turf." The program will be available for the estimated 8,000 women who deliver babies each year at district birthing centers and who live in the city. While in the hospital, the new mothers will be given a gift basket that includes a letter from Mayor Anthony Williams (D) inviting her to schedule a home visit, as well as information on lead poisoning prevention, immunization and other health concerns. About 4,000 mothers are expected to request that a nurse visit them to discuss care for their child. During a "typical" visit, the nurse will examine the baby, demonstrate care and review the home to "reveal potential health hazards for infants." Nine district hospitals and five Medicaid HMOs are participating in the $750,000 initiative, with most of the funds coming from federal sources. District Health Department Director Ivan Walks said that the program is "the first tangible thing that goes directly at infant mortality," adding, "The mayor is making an effort to get a personal note to that new mother to make sure the child grows up healthy. We come to the house, and that says: 'You're important. We care about your child and want to make sure that you're safe and have what you need.' It's a powerful message to the community" (Goldstein, Washington Post, 11/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.