The University of Arizona Medical Center hopes to educate expecting mothers about prenatal care through a program launched on Thursday.
Funded by an $18,880 grant from March of Dimes Arizona Chapter, the goal of the Healthy Pregnancy Project is to educate women at earlier stages in their pregnancy about maintaining a healthy diet, proper hydration, risky behaviors, avoiding harmful substances, the importance of prenatal care and how to recognize signs of problems and seek medical attention. The program had its first class on Thursday.
“Our overall goal is to try to determine if we could have an impact on reducing preterm birth rate by providing this education,” said Laurie Stephen, family education coordinator at the medical center.
The Healthy Pregnancy Project was one of 20 to 30 requests for funds and one of four selected projects to receive a portion of the $60,000 granted by the March of Dimes Arizona Chapter every year. The chosen programs had to incorporate March of Dimes’ mission, which aims to prevent premature birth, birth defects and to improve the birth outcome of babies and “the quality of life of all babies and mothers,” according to Beth Mulcahy, state director of program services and Public Affairs for March of Dimes Arizona Chapter.
“Most of the high-risk pregnancies in Tucson go to UAMC, because … their facility is designed for high-risk pregnancies and babies who are born with problems,” Mulcahy said. “So they reach vulnerable populations … they also reach refugee populations. So their hospital is perfect for this program and educating women who are in the early stages of their pregnancy.”
Although the program intends to reach all expecting mothers regardless of socioeconomic status, it also wants to “tap into” underserved, uninsured and refugee populations, Stephen said.
“This is a hospital that sees a great many babies who are born prematurely. Sometimes prematurity can be prevented by excellent prenatal care,” said Katie Riley, a spokeswoman for the center.
The project will hold classes every week throughout 2012 in both English and Spanish. There is no limit to the amount of attendees, and the program encourages fathers to come in and learn as well.
“We’ve got plenty of space and we’re going to have really great educational materials for them to take with them,” Stephen said. “We will work with however many people we can attract.”
Although the March of Dimes can only fund the Healthy Pregnancy Project this year, UAMC hopes to sustain the program on its own afterward.
“This program in itself is a perfect example of a large, well-organized hospital expanding their outreach to their vulnerable population,” Mulcahy said. “They anticipate to reach over 1,400 women in a year, which is phenomenal.”