In Kane County, Illinois, more than 100 pregnant young mothers know precisely who to turn to for help with their pregnancies and new babies—the nurses of Kane Kares Nurse-Family Partnership.
Started eight years ago, Kane Kares is an approved site of the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), a national, evidence-based program that has been in place since the 1970s. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, together with other foundations, has given a substantial amount of money to grow this program so that the national office can offer training and technical assistance to NFP programs across the country. “We supported the science that proved it worked, now we want to get it out there to the thousands of families that need it nationwide,” says James Marks, M.D., M.P.H., Senior Vice President and Director of the Health Group at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
NFP programs such as Kane Kares help change the lives of vulnerable first-time mothers and their babies through ongoing home visits from registered nurses. Three controlled trials and follow-up studies since 1977 have demonstrated the success of the program in achieving its three primary goals—better pregnancy outcomes (such as reductions in high-risk pregnancies as a result of greater intervals between first and subsequent birth), improved child health and development (a 56% reduction in emergency room visits for accidents and injuries; 50% reduction in language delays among participating toddlers), and increased economic self sufficiency (20% reduction in months on welfare.) Currently, NFP serves 17,000 families in 28 states. Program leaders estimate that another 600,000 families could benefit if funding were available.
The Kane County Health Department has identified at least 300 young mothers whose age and income make them appropriate for the Kane Kares program. On average, first-time mothers in the program are 17, two years younger than the national average for the Nurse Family Partnership.
Proven Result: Outpacing National Averages
Kane Kares is achieving measurable results that outpace the Nurse Family Partnership national averages.
- Only 8.6 percent of Kane Kares infants are born premature. The NFP national average is 9.7 percent and for all Kane County births the average is 10.7 percent.
- Only 7.3 percent of Kane Kares infants are born with low birth weights, compared to 10.6 percent for the NFP national average and 9.3 percent for all births in Kane County.
- Only 13.9 percent of Kane Kares toddlers 12-24 months had emergency room visits or hospitalizations, compared to 15.1 percent for the NFP national average. (No information is currently available for the local Kane County percentage.)
Based on the National Family Partnership model, Kane Kares nurses address specific issues with their clients. Nurses help mothers through the terms of their pregnancy, prepare them for delivery, teach the new mothers about proper nutrition and immunizations for their baby, educate them on a baby’s development and growth, and link them with community resources for which they are eligible.
“We don’t just tell them what to do, we do things with them,” says Theresa Heaton, R.N., director of Kane Kares. “We get on the floor and show them how to interact with their baby, or drive them to the county office. Going forward, they’ll be able to do these things on their own.”
While the need to address disparities in care is well known, few strategies for reducing disparities have been studied systematically.
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