Can Social Workers Lower The Country’s Premature Birth Rate?

Close to 400,000 children are born prematurely—before 37 weeks—in the US every year, roughly one out of every 10 births. Preterm birth can lead to long term health and development problems, and is one of the main reasons for children dying in infancy.

The traditional approach to preventing this problem is for obstetricians to monitor fetal health with tools like ultrasounds, urine sampling and amniocentesis. But for patients like Anderson, sometimes that’s not enough.

Maribeth Hollinshead, an obstetrics nurse for 30 years, says she’d see some of those cases throughout her career and ask, “What are we missing with this patient? We’ve done everything medically but yet we’re still getting a preterm delivery.”

Hollinshead is not alone. Health care providers everywhere have started asking what can be done about known risk factors for preterm birth like chronic unemployment, a stressful home life or depression that aren’t so easily observed in the doctor’s office.

And the federal government has started to fund new models of care to address these issues through a grant program called Strong Start. The program is run by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Administration on Children and Families and has given out $41 million to support the work.

Innovations around the country vary but they all have the goal of providing increased psychosocial support for low-income expectant moms.

For the past two years, Hollinshead has directed one of these new initiatives at Signature Medical Group. Their approach was to add Masters-level social workers like Meghan Bragers to its obstetrics team.

Read the full story from KBIA.