"Come to mommy! " crawling,cuddling,even crying these are moments Helen Jones cherishes. But being a first time mom to her son, Elija hasn't come without some concern. Helen is blind and only moved to Rochester from Kenya two years ago. "When you are a new mom, you're not sure if you are doing the right thing." That's where Terri Lilly comes in.
"Does he have a sippy cup?" Lilly is a registered nurse. She's part of the Nurse-Family Partnership program and makes in home visits to low income mothers. "You get to see them in their natural environment. You have a better sense of what their challenges are, what strengths they have, what is available to them, what neighborhood they live in, things like that."
Helen is one of some two dozen moms Lilly visits at home on a regular basis. "While we're getting the relationship established and everything, getting to know the moms and their needs, we see folks weekly and then we go to every other week." And studies show these type of home visits for at risk moms are life saving.
Harriet Kitzman is a professor at the University of Rochester. She helped co-author a study that tracked more than 1000 at risk mothers and children over two decades. Some received standard care, others received in home visits. Mothers who received at home visits fared far better. "20 years later, what we see is a reduction of deaths that has occurred in that period of time. And that's a reduction in deaths of mothers, as well as children."
Kitzman says nurses are able to anticipate a mother's concern while solving potential problems without the stress of an office visit. "These are children that may have been more closely cared for but are also in a better position to care for themselves."
The findings aren't surprising but they are reassuring for moms like Helen Jones. "Having Terri and this program kind of reminded me there was hope."
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