In the City of Niagara Falls, 29% of pregnant women are not receiving early prenatal care. About 14% of the babies born in the city are premature and 8.5% have low birth weights.
Women involved in the court system are at even higher risk of poor birth outcomes and often have difficulty accessing services. For this group of women, traditional home visits are not a good fit, and neither the justice system, nor the local health and human service provider networks, are well positioned to support their unique needs.
To increase the number of healthy pregnancies and healthy infants in Niagara Falls, Syracuse and Buffalo, the Foundation partnered with the March of Dimes’ to offer patient navigator services through the Women’s Health Education Navigation (WHEN) program.
Patient navigators help connect women to timely prenatal care, improves coordination among service providers and addresses any need for education and support around pregnancy and parenting. The WHEN program aims to improve birth outcomes for this vulnerable group of women by:
- Making services more accessible to pregnant women through case management;
- Educating women about the behaviors that promote healthy pregnancies and healthy infants;
- Organizing a referral network to increase access to pre-conception care and primary care; and
- Improving women’s ability to successfully complete court sentences or other court-mandated activities.
The WHEN Program operated in four sites across New York State: Niagara Falls, Syracuse, Buffalo and Manhattan. In 2015, the WHEN program provided case management services to 152 women at the three sites in western and central New York, an increase of 29 percent from the previous year.
Of those, 118 were new clients, 93% of whom were referred to at least one health or social service provider. In Niagara Falls and Syracuse, 67 and 53 percent of women kept their appointments, respectively. In Buffalo, the newest site, 57 percent of women kept their appointments.
In one example, Claire,* a 23-year-old pregnant woman with a mental health history, was referred to the WHEN program by her medical provider. She had recently been made homeless due to a domestic violence situation and needed housing as well as mental health treatment.
The WHEN Patient Navigator helped Claire to first move into a women’s shelter, then a more permanent drug-and-alcohol-free residence. Throughout the course of their working relationship, the Patient Navigator found Claire a mental health provider, arranged transportation for Claire to her medical appointments and prenatal classes, assisted with public assistance applications, and more.
With the help of the WHEN program, Claire delivered a healthy full-term baby and went on to start work as a home health aide, move into supported housing and enroll in college classes online.
* Name has been changed to protect privacy