Healthcare Expansion Targets Infant Mortality
JPS has launched a sweeping new initiative aimed at Tarrant County’s high infant mortality rate, which chronically falls well above the state and national averages. One out of every 119 babies born in Fort Worth fails to reach the age of 1. Among babies born to African American mothers, 1 in 70 will succumb to infant mortality.
Research has found infant mortality closely tied to prenatal care. Premature birth is among the leading contributors, and is more likely to occur in women who received late or no prenatal care. The Tarrant County Fetal Infant Mortality Review found that 48 percent of babies are born to women who got late or no prenatal care. For many of those women, the first encounter with a healthcare provider comes in the OB Triage unit in the Emergency Department at JPS, a 10-bed unit with more than 1,200 patient encounters each month.
JPS has committed to an ambitious effort to make prenatal care more accessible and affordable, and to work with community agencies and organizations, including Catholic Charities, Rising Star Baptist Church, Tarrant County Public Health and area school districts, to identify women eligible for assistance and help them navigate the social services and healthcare safety nets.
New models of prenatal care currently in place at a single JPS clinic will be expanded to all four JPS Health Centers for Women, which will begin providing an initial prenatal appointment in concert with pregnancy testing. Clinic staff will help women identify sources of financial assistance that they qualify for, and will assist with applications for Medicaid and CHIP Medicaid, preventing delays in prenatal care while applications are being processed.
JPS will begin providing dental care for low-income pregnant women at six clinics throughout the county. Community health workers will be hired to work in area neighborhoods, educating women about prenatal care and the financial assistance available to them. A doula will be hired to provide support for pregnant women without a support network of their own. And lactation consultants will be hired to encourage breastfeeding.
The new initiatives are funded largely with federal money available under a Medicaid 1115 Waiver approved for the state of Texas last year. Medicaid waivers provide incentive funds for innovative projects designed to improve efficiency and ultimately lower healthcare costs while improving health outcomes. Additional federal funding is being provided by Primary Health Center Expansion Grants awarded to JPS.