Making a Difference … One Baby at a Time

Imagine being pregnant without the right resources to help you have a happy, healthy baby. Perhaps you are facing food insecurity, inter-partner violence, unemployment or a lack of transportation. These problems, known as social determinates of health – are the reality for millions of pregnant moms and new babies born each year in the United States. 

Now imagine a program aimed at providing resources to pregnant women – resources that can reduce infant mortality rates and provide a brighter future for the next generation. 

This is the purpose of the Franciscan Health Prenatal Assistance programs in Hammond and Crown Point. These offices do not provide prenatal care or even have exam rooms. Instead, they ensure women get the physical care and social, emotional and financial resources needed to bring their babies into the world. 

For starters, the program ensures a woman gets prenatal care, regardless of her insurance status, thanks to a financial navigator who helps women and children get health insurance. The program also helps expectant mothers access public assistance programs, provides health education about topics such as newborn care and breastfeeding and provides baby supplies, including diapers and clothing.

“Research has shown that addressing any social determinate of health can make a real impact on someone’s health,” said Rick Peltier, executive director of the Franciscan Health Foundation Northern Indiana. “The beauty of this program is that prenatal care is just the start of their services. By providing resources for mental health, childcare, employment, education and others, they are addressing the full gamut of needs to help a family be successful.”

As the Prenatal Assistance programs grow and expand, they are now working with the Indiana State Department of Health to provide telehealth services to high-risk Lake County mothers. This pilot program will provide a digital scale, digital blood pressure cuffs, fetal doppler monitors and oximeters to monitor their vitals and communicate daily. Mental health support is also a part of this new initiative. 

“The work being done is making a difference,” said Peltier. “In 2017, Indiana had the seventh-highest infant mortality rate in the country. Now, just three years later, as a result of a lot of work done around the state, Indiana recently announced the lowest level of infant mortality ever recorded in the state’s history.”