Bringing a healthy baby into the world is a blessing, and in most cases, it’s no accident.
That’s because mothers-to-be today have access to excellent pre-natal care, care our grandmothers probably only dreamed of.
But for a certain sector of our population, particularly the under- and uninsured, access to affordable prenatal care is frequently non-existent.
That can be a problem, as lack of adequate prenatal care is a major factor in low-weight births and prematurity, both of which can contribute to less positive outcomes for the newborn.
I’m excited, though, to announce an exciting and unique partnership between the Northwest Georgia Healthcare Partnership (NGHP), Hamilton Health Care System, Associates in Obstetrics & Gynecology (AOG) and the Whitfield County Health Department.
This program will be called Northwest Georgia Healthy Babies and it’s aimed at increasing the number of pregnant women who can attain adequate prenatal care.
Those uninsured mothers-to-be who qualify financially will receive excellent, affordable prenatal care throughout their entire pregnancy at Whitfield County Health Department by AOG certified nurse midwives and Whitfield County Health Department support staff.
The Hamilton Health Care System has provided seed money for this project, and my own organization, the NGHP, will loan our community health workers to do community outreach, to create awareness, and to coordinate the project.
Let me just say that this whole project, which sprang from The Archway Partnership’s desire to see prenatal care be made available to all of our residents, owes a debt of gratitude to the diligent efforts of several leaders on this issue, including pediatrician Dr. Luis Viamonte, real estate agent and community leader Dixie Kinard, and lead pastor of Rockbridge Community Church Matt Evans.
Dr. Craig Tidwell, an OBGYN with AOG, and Gayle Brannon, Manager of the Whitfield County Health Department, have also worked hard to make this dream a reality.
These folks and many others have been working on this project for about a year, and by this October, Northwest Georgia Healthy Babies should be up and running.
What will this mean for the community? We expect to see a reduction in the number of low birth weight infants and to see an increase in healthy births, leading to healthier first years of life for hundreds of infants in our region.
We also expect to see a significant reduction in costs to our community once fewer babies are born prematurely or with low birth weights.
For example, in terms of hospital costs alone, expenses for an infant having a normal birth weight is around $7,900 while expenses for a low-weight infant birth may rise to $270,000. And in the first year of life, health care costs for premature babies averages nearly $56,000 compared to just over $4,000 for a healthy, full-term baby.
And while Hamilton Medical Center has an excellent neonatal unit, I think we’d all agree that it would be wonderful to reduce the need for it.
But there are other advantages as well. In addition to the financial benefits, there will be non-tangibles, such as the reduction of emotional distress for parents-to-be as they learn the necessary steps to secure a healthy outcome for their pregnancies and are screened for problems along the way.