DURHAM, N.C. – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) announced today an investment of $1.7 million dedicated to improving maternal and infant health across the state. The investment will benefit Family Connects International, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and Nurse-Family Partnership.
The funds will support family health assistance programs in communities across the state. These programs will improve the health outcomes of children and young families in the state by educating and nurturing first-time mothers, providing wellness services for young families and supporting the Baby-Friendly designation status of local hospitals, a global recognition marking excellence in maternity services and breastfeeding resources.
“For maternal and newborn health, knowledge is a powerful and lifesaving tool,” said Dr. Patrick Conway, President and CEO of Blue Cross NC. “Increasing access to prenatal resources and postnatal support in our communities is a vital part of empowering and improving the health and outlook of North Carolina’s families. As a practicing pediatrician, I understand the significant positive impact that investments in maternal and child health have on long term health outcomes and costs for families and communities.”
Poor prenatal and postnatal care has been linked to physical, mental and emotional health complications for both the mother and child. By educating new mothers on how to properly care for their infants and effectively supporting them in the hospital before, during and after their delivery, the three organizations supported by Blue Cross NC’s investment will help to prepare North Carolina mothers and their children for a healthier future.
Family Connects International
The Family Connects model is an evidence-based nurse home visiting model offered at no cost to families with newborns in communities where it is implemented. Designed to connect families to the early childhood resources they need, the program has been shown to effectively reduce infant emergency medical care and improve maternal and infant health outcomes.
- As of May 2018, Family Connects has completed over 28,197 home visits through its North Carolina service locations. About half of the total visits were located in Durham County.
- Funding will support the overall budget of existing Family Connects infrastructure in North Carolina’s Durham, Forsyth and Guilford counties as well as the expansion of services into rural parts of the state.
UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health – Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute
As part of its work promoting safe breastfeeding and maternity care services, Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill will use the investment funds to support 61 North Carolina hospitals in their journeys to become Baby-Friendly, giving thousands more mothers from across the state access to high-quality post-natal care. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative was launched by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 1991. To date, 500 US hospitals have achieved this designation.
- The requirements for a hospital to become Baby-Friendly involve a four-step process and can cost thousands of dollars for a single hospital to complete. As a result, many capable facilities cannot afford to pursue designation, particularly if they are in rural service areas.
- By achieving Baby-Friendly designation status at the anticipated 61 hospitals, approximately 76,000 babies will benefit from positive, long-term health impacts such as lowered risk of heart disease, cancer, obesity and high blood pressure as adults. Mothers who achieve their breastfeeding goals will reduce their risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) improves maternal and newborn health outcomes by partnering a highly-skilled nurse with first-time mothers living in poverty until the child turns two years old. NFP mothers are 18 percent less likely to experience pre-term deliveries and experience increased likelihood to breastfeed their baby for the recommended minimum of six months. NFP currently provides services through 14 network partners across 25 counties in North Carolina.
- By providing high-quality care and education to the families of newborns in poverty, NFP programs help break the cycle of poverty and increase the likelihood of long-term positive health impacts.
- Funds will support infrastructure development for future expansion of NFP’s nurse home visiting programs into rural North Carolina. Increasing the NFP service area will improve access to care for mothers and infants most at risk for poor health outcomes.
About Family Connects International:
Family Connects International (FCI) aims to improve the health and well-being of children and families at the population level and transform systems of care. Housed at Duke University, this program engages in innovative research and evaluation, as well as health policy. FCI trains registered nurses who visit families in the early weeks after the birth of a baby, providing health check-ups, comprehensive assessments and linkages to needed resources. FCI works in partnership with local and state governments, health-care systems and nonprofit organizations to align resources and to plan and implement the Family Connects model in communities across the country.
About UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health – Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute:
The Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute, housed within the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, promotes increased quality of care and aims to create an optimal breastfeeding norm through research, service and training. CGBI’s comprehensive approach prioritizes the reproductive health continuum, an intergenerational approach, and the “Three B’s” (birth, breastfeeding and birth spacing). As the top-ranked public school of public health and #2 among all schools of public health, the Gillings School aims to improve public health, promote individual well-being and eliminate health inequities across North Carolina and around the world.
About Nurse-Family Partnership:
Nurse-Family Partnership changes the future for the most vulnerable babies born into poverty by giving a first-time mom trusted support from her own personal nurse throughout the first 1,000 days, from pregnancy until her child’s second birthday. Participation is free and voluntary for the mother. Nurse-Family Partnership is headquartered in Denver, Colorado. Visit Nurse-Family Partnership online at www.nursefamilypartnership.org.
About Blue Cross NC:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina improves the health and well-being of our customers and communities by providing innovative health care products, services and information to more than 3.89 million members, including approximately 1 million served on behalf of other Blue Plans. Since 1933, we have worked to make North Carolina a better place to live through our support of community organizations, programs and events that promote good health. We have been recognized as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by Ethisphere Institute every year since 2012. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Visit Blue Cross online at bluecrossnc.com. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.
 “Implementation and Randomized Controlled Trial Evaluation of Universal Postnatal Nurse Home Visiting.” Am J Public Health, 2014. Accessed November 2018.
 Nurse-Family Partnership internal data.