The March of Dimes is bringing its efforts to fight premature births and babies with low birth weight to Queens.
Jamaica Hospital Medical Center and Elmhurst Hospital Center have been designated as recipients of a $150,000 grant as part of the March of Dimes’ “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” campaign.
The effort was formally kicked off on July 16 at York College in Jamaica before community and healthcare officials.
The March of Dimes began the program in Kentucky in 2007 in an effort to combine public and clinical health services with community outreach to reduce the number of babies born prematurely either by term or by weight.
Dr. Scott Berns, a senior vice president for the March of Dimes, said the three-year Kentucky trial was mostly a success — “We were hoping to reduce premature births by 15 percent; we reduced them by 12 percent” — and since has expanded to Texas, New Jersey, and Kansas as well as upstate New York.
Berns said New York’s premature birth rate is lower than the national average.
“But it can be better,” he said.
He said Jamaica and Elmhurst were chosen after a rigorous screening process that included local communities that typically are at risk.
Berns said things like poverty and race, particularly in the African-American community, are factors.
“We could go on another hour about that alone,” he said. He also pointed to nearly nine years of results.
“That’s the good news for New York,” he said. “We have a program that works.”
Elmhurst Hospital Center is operated by the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp. Jamaica Hospital Medical Center is under the MediSys Health Network.
Representatives of both hospitals said last week that they will use the funding to expand and augment their existing services for patients from at-risk areas or backgrounds.
Bruce Flanz, president and CEO of Jamaica Hospital Medical Center and Dr. Barry Brown, director of obstetrics and gynecology at Elmhurst, said their approaches to premature births both are structured on a model of improving healthcare in the entire community.
“This offers the very same vision,” he said.
At Jamaica, women who come in for their routine pregnancy treatments are asked if they want to participate in the centering program, where they meet regularly with staff and other women at similar stages of their pregnancies.
Mitchell Cornet, administrator of the hospital’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said that thanks to the March of Dimes, expectant mothers now will receive hand-held tablets, allowing communication between themselves and healthcare professionals outside of their regularly scheduled checkups and visits.
He said the tablets can help with everything from health questions to digital prescriptions.
He also said the program can serve as a “health inventory” as mothers transition to their parental support services.
Dr. Tamara Magloire, medical director of the Women’s Health Center at JHMC, also said they will not forsake the nuts and bolts, such as plain old communication between patients and care providers.
“There has to be education based on understanding,” she said. “I think sometimes we take a lot for granted about what women know about their healthcare.”
Karen Lockworth, who serves as the director of the Women and Children’s Division at Elmhurst Hospital Center, said they also will expand community outreach and existing programs that deal in preventive measures, such as nutrition and diet education.
“Sometimes, that’s just knowing where the local WIC [food and nutrition assistance] office is,” Lockworth said. But Elmhurst also offers healthy cooking demonstrations, and in some cases can provide “green bucks” that can be used to purchase nutritional food.
She also said that in a borough with a population as diversified as Queens, nutritional programs need a dose of cultural common sense.
“If you’re from the south, and I am, you might not want to have a green shake for breakfast,” Lockworth said. “But maybe you can substitute some turkey bacon.”