A Promising Approach — The Life Course Model
We’re using a science-based model to address the health of women across their life span. This Life Course Perspective looks at the health of the mother from the day of her birth to the birth of her child. Programs are created around this model to implement multilevel initiatives for the woman herself, her family, her health care provider and her community. We’ve made important inroads toward improving women’s health and reducing infant mortality.
- The Healthy Women Healthy Babies program provides health care, mental health and nutrition services for women before, during and after pregnancy. During fiscal year 2009, the program served 11,382 women across the state. Of those women served who were pregnant, 95 percent did not have a pregnancy complication.
- The prematurity prevention program prevented 30 premature deliveries in fiscal year 2009.
- The DHMIC developed a reproductive health education tool that will reach more than 100,000 in the first year.
- Genetic counseling is available for those at risk of having an infant born with a birth defect.
- To better serve our diverse population, we provide Spanish-language interpretation services for more than 500 patients per year.
- Immunizations and folic acid supplements, as well as health screenings for stress, intimate partner violence, exposure to toxins and drug/alcohol use are standard for all women served through the program.
- We continue to collect and analyze data on the health of pregnant women, fetal deaths, infant deaths and birth defects. We now have a better understanding than ever about why Delaware’s infant mortality rate is so high.
- We expect these programs to show results in prematurity, low birth weight and infant mortality over time. We have reasons to be hopeful. The infant mortality rate in Delaware dropped from 9.2/1,000 births (2001–2005) to 8.5/1,000 births (2003–2007). Although there has been a long-term trend of increasing low birth weight babies, Delaware has had no increase since 2001.
This multilevel approach includes programs to:
- Improve choices made in early womanhood
- Help deal with negative experiences and exposure to unhealthy lifestyles early in life
- Provide preconception, prenatal and interconception health care services
- Help women understand how to handle stress and provide tools to help cope
- Recognize underlying mental health issues, including postpartum depression
- Provide care for chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension through provider pathways
- Address tobacco and alcohol use and other unhealthy lifestyle choices
- Provide parenting guidance and home visiting services
- Monitor and find answers about poor birth outcomes to inform future changes and improvements in services
Through this approach, we can continue to reduce infant mortality and ensure that healthy women will have healthy babies in generations to come.