Health officials in Salt Lake County believe intensive home visits to low-income pregnant women by well-trained public health nurses will improve a baby's health and a family's future, while reducing costs.

Wednesday morning, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon and representatives of the Salt Lake Valley Health Department introduced the Nurse-Family Partnership Program, a national program that's getting its Utah debut in Salt Lake County. Already, 32 low-income families have enrolled, said Audrey Stevenson, director of Family Health Services. The county has funding for 100 families.

Corroon said RAND Corp. research indicates that for every program dollar spent, $5.70 is returned to the community. "It's good for our communities, good for our pocketbooks and especially good for the families that are enrolled," he said.

Kami Cram's baby is due in early December, and she said her meetings with a registered nurse have not only helped her with the pregnancy but with planning her future. The 23-year-old wants to go to college and become a nurse, so she's eating up the advice she's getting.

There are four nurses in the program, according to one of them, Malti Pandya, who said that the goal is to reach women by the time they're 12-14 weeks along, then visit weekly to talk about what to expect during pregnancy and how to deal with it. Later, they talk about bonding and how to accomplish certain tasks and issues that concern the parents. They also talk about topics like employment and child care. The weekly meetings become less frequent, starting sometime after the baby is born, but the relationship continues until the child is age 2.

Among the touted benefits are decreased use of welfare programs, fewer visits to the emergency room and homeless shelters and increased tax revenues because participants thrive and earn more. Immediate benefits include the fact that the babies are healthier, parents are better prepared for that role and there's a strong support network for mother and infant.

For more information, call 801-468-2843 or go online at www.nursefamilypartnership.org or slvhealth.org.


E-mail: [email protected]