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FOR RELEASE: May 10 , 2005
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications

Children First Program Moms Have Healthier Babies

Single mothers participating in the Children First Nurse-Family Partnership Program of the Oklahoma State Department of Health have healthier babies than single mothers not participating in the program, according to the results from an epidemiological study published in this month’s issue of the journal Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology.

The Children First program promotes positive pregnancy and birth outcomes and parent-child interactions as part of the public health services offered by the Oklahoma State Department of Health to Oklahoma families.

The program enrolls women who are less than 29 weeks pregnant with their first baby and the family’s income must be less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level. A typical client is a single mother about 19 years old, with an average of 11.5 years of education and an annual income of less than $15,000.
The program provides home visits to the family until the child’s second birthday. Nurses provide health and developmental assessments, education and referrals, and support to families needing help to cope with the demands of caregiving, working or continuing their education. During state fiscal year 2004, 5,869 Children First families received services.

Dr. Hélène Carabin and others from the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the College of Public Health, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, conducted the Children First study. Researchers evaluated the program for the time period from 1998 to 2001 by reviewing 64,335 Oklahoma mothers and their babies enrolled in the program. To assess the role of participation in the Children First program on reducing poor pregnancy outcomes, researchers reviewed 239,466 Oklahoma birth certificates to identify and compare babies of participating and nonparticipating mothers. Any differences between mothers in race, maternal age, marital status, education, and participation in the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program were statistically adjusted in the analyses.

Among the primary findings of the study were the following:

  • Babies born to Children First mothers had about one-half the risk of death within the first year of life compared to babies of non-Children First mothers. This lower death rate in Children First babies was most evident within the first month of life.
  • Single Children First mothers had a 41 percent lower risk of having a very preterm baby (less than 30 weeks gestation) than did single non-Children First mothers.
  • Single Children First mothers had a 30 percent lower risk of having a very low birth weight (less than 3 1/3 pounds) baby than did single non-Children First mothers.
  • “The Children First Nurse-Family Partnership helps build strong, healthy families by working with mothers even before their babies are born,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Crutcher.

“This program intervenes with families by modeling and teaching good health, educational and living skills that help families survive and be successful. Good parenting helps children have healthy outcomes and can break the cycle of unhealthy lifestyles and child abuse for generations to come.”

For more information on Children First, or to enroll in the Children First Nurse-Family Partnership program in your area, contact your local county health department, or for general information, visit this Web site: www.health.state.ok.us/program/c1/ .


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