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Clayton Board of Health launches new program

Aims to assist at-risk mothers, babies

It was earlier this month that officials with the Clayton County Board of Health introduced a new initiative: the “Parents as Teachers (PAT), Born to Learn” curriculum, which is operated through the board’s home visiting services program.

The new initiative is seen as an enhancement to the existing Making Our Mothers Successful (MOMS) program, and will give the board another means for educating at-risk mothers, particularly African-American mothers who live in areas of Clayton County with the highest infant mortality rates.

Clayton’s PAT program is being supported through a partnership between the board of health and the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, officials said. It is being funded through a nearly $157,000 grant through 2012.

PAT is a nationally recognized program, which was founded in 1984. It is an evidence-based home visiting program to improve the outcomes of mothers –– and their children between the ages of 0 and 3 –– who are at risk for developmental problems.

Twanna Nelson, outreach specialist for the MOMS program –– which will work in concert with PAT –– said the MOMS program was established to help reduce Clayton County’s infant mortality rate, by providing free in-home counseling and education services to women experiencing high-risk pregnancies.

“The PAT program has been around for a long time, and is a proven, effective model,” said Nelson. “It is very similar to what we are trying to do with MOMS, however, the MOMS program follows parents until their children are 12 months old.”

Adding PAT will allow the board of health to provide intervention services, to qualifying mothers, until their children are 36 months old., she said. With PAT, the board will be able to expand its home visiting services to more of those who reside in area codes with the highest infant mortality rates: 30236 (Jonesboro), 30238 (Jonesboro), and 30274 (Riverdale).

“United Way is proud to assist the Clayton County Board of Health engage the community to drive sustainable change in the health of residents,” said United Way President Milton Little, Jr. “This program aligns with our strategic focus of people having access to primary health care, and babies being born healthy.”

“The [Parents as Teachers] grant allows us to provide additional care,” said Clayton’s Nelson. “Mothers enrolled in either the MOMS or PAT programs will benefit from greater access to our family support specialists, now that our staff is full-time.”

In addition, Nelson said, there will be a greater continuum of care for mothers transitioning from the MOMS program to the PAT program. Currently, 55 mothers are enrolled in the MOMS program, Nelson said.

Data from the State Department of Public Health shows that the infant mortality rate in Clayton County has been higher than Georgia’s infant mortality rate for several years. The reasons for that include socioeconomic factors, higher incidents of pre-term delivery, and low birth weights, said Dr. Alpha Fowler Bryan, Clayton County’s District Health Director. She said she believes the PAT program will help improve these findings.

“There are many children in Clayton who die before their first birthday,” said Bryan, “simply because their parents lack knowledge, resources and access to prenatal health care.”

According to officials, New Millennium Obstetrics and Gynecology, with offices in Riverdale and Forest Park, will serves as “a referral partner” for the grant program, “helping steer more women toward life-saving health services.”