• Combining Heart and Science to Curb Prematurity

    Dr. Elizabeth Kelly.

    Dr. Elizabeth Kelly started a program to ensure that disadvantaged women receive early and ongoing prenatal care.

    Too many babies in our state are born too early. Too many die before their first birthday. Each year in Ohio, nearly 18,000 infants are born at least three weeks before their due date. Well more than 1,000 infants die within their first year.

    The reasons are not well understood. But one innovative program has joined clinicians and researchers in an effort to stem the tide.

    Quality improvement (QI) researchers from the Anderson Center for Health Systems Excellence at Cincinnati Children’s have joined with clinicians at the University of Cincinnati (UC) and the Cincinnati Health Department to help low-income, uninsured women − the women most at risk of giving birth to preterm infants.

    It started with a program begun by Elizabeth Kelly, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist with UC’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Women could come to the Health Department’s Elm Street or Price Hill Health Centers and have a pregnancy test, receive their first “dose” of prenatal care and be connected with needed resources, all in one day.

    Kelly, who has spent her career caring for disadvantaged women, wanted to make regular prenatal care easier for patients who struggle just to get by, much less schedule and keep prenatal appointments.

    “Until a woman is free of things like being a victim of domestic violence, and has heat in her home, and food, and a ride to her appointments, it’s pretty hard for her to adhere to her healthcare,” she says.

    Kelly worked with QI researchers at Cincinnati Children’s to put four evidence-based interventions in place at the health centers:

    • Same-day access to care
    • Help with social and economic concerns
    • Help to stop smoking or using other harmful substances
    • Ensuring a safe sleeping place for their newborns 

    Every woman who receives prenatal care at the Elm Street and Price Hill Health Centers is offered these interventions. QI researchers will track outcomes – which they hope will be healthy, full-term babies. Kelly is already seeing positive results.

    “Our patients love it,” she says. “They are genuinely concerned about their health and the health of their babies. This program allows more of their basic needs to be met so they can focus on staying healthier.” 

    Making Sure “Evidence-Based” Steps Are Taken 

    Community health worker Lauren Bostick.

    Community health worker Lauren Bostick helps make sure that basic health and life needs are met so that women can deliver healthy, full-term babies. 

    Helping ensure that “evidence-based” health measures are followed is one of the many tasks of the community health worker.

    Lauren Bostick is a community health worker with the Cincinnati Health Department. Her job is to make sure her pregnant clients remain healthy throughout their pregnancies.

    “Our primary responsibility is to establish a relationship with the women we care for,” says Bostick. “It’s why we do what we do.”

    What she does ranges from helping a homeless pregnant woman find housing to providing food and other essentials to a mother struggling to feed her family. Bostick makes sure mothers get to their medical appointments and their children get to the pediatrician.

    It can take many visits to establish trust and to keep a woman on course. But Bostick takes pride in the fact that many of the women she cares for are able to improve their life circumstances. Nearly all deliver healthy babies.

    And many keep in touch after their babies are born.

    “We may not always see immediate results, but I know that I sowed a seed in an individual’s life. And eventually things will change for the better,” she says. “What keeps us going is that every pregnant mother, and every child, matters.”