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Monday, March 4, 2024

ARP funds allocated to Welcome Baby program

The program is supported by UC Davis HEAL Lab

By RACHEL SHEY city@theaggie.org

COVID-19 has negatively impacted many mothers and babies in Yolo County, according to experts. According to data obtained from Communicare Health centers in Yolo County, “rates for low-birth-weight infants have more than doubled during the pandemic.” Only 47% of pregnant women in Yolo County received prenatal care in 2020, compared to 84% in 2018. 

First 5 Yolo, an organization aimed at helping Yolo County’s young children, has obtained American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to launch a new program called Welcome Baby, which aims to help mothers and babies during the first few weeks postpartum, according to First 5 Yolo Executive Director Gina Daleiden. 

[Welcome Baby] is a health and wellness program for newborns and their mothers in particular,” Daleiden said. “Statewide, national and local data tells us that women giving birth in the time of COVID-19 are at particularly high risk for adversity and stress that then reflect on the newborn and their ability because the relationship and the bonding is so important.”

The Welcome Baby program is supported by ARP funds that Yolo County received, according to First 5 Yolo Systems Improvement Officer Sarah Hartman. The Yolo County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to allocate the funds to the Welcome Baby program. 

“There was a call for proposals for the American Rescue Plan Funding and First 5 Yolo funds programs for families of children zero to five, so First 5 Yolo submitted this Welcome Baby proposal, which is this home visiting program, and that was funded by ARP,” Hartman said. “First 5 Yolo is leading the Welcome Baby program, and we work with the healthcare system, so we work with Communicare, and we also work with other different community organizations like Yolo County Children’s Alliance to provide Welcome Baby.”

The program largely takes the form of home visits. Those who are eligible for the program will all receive a home nurse visit, and then up to two community health care visits. 

“In its simplest form, it would be one home nurse visit for every MediCal or uninsured woman in Yolo County within the first week after release from the hospital after giving birth, postpartum,” Daleiden said. “In that visit, the nurse will be able to assess the mother’s mental health as well as physical health, look at the baby and assess its health at that point, do a full clinical and health assessment and give a screen to gauge risk of adversity.”

This program is new to Yolo County, but similar projects have been done before, according to Daleiden. This type of program originated in Colorado, where it is called Family Connects; it has also been done with First 5 Los Angeles and First 5 Orange County. Here in Yolo County, however, UC Davis is a collaborator with First 5 Yolo. Dr. Leigh Ann Simmons with HEAL Lab is participating in assisting with Welcome Baby. 

“We have a current collaboration on a project and that’s how we got connected to First 5 Yolo,” Simmons said. “We’re collaborating with them specifically to help them with evaluation. Everything from looking at health outcomes from the birthing person and their child or infant, to finding if there are any cost savings associated with having a nurse home visit after someone gives birth.”

One of the goals for Simmons is to evaluate whether Welcome Baby reduces costs as well. She aims to help First 5 Yolo collect data that can be used to evaluate whether the program is reaching its goal. 

“We’re doing a combination of things; one is definitely looking at the literature,” Simmons said. “There are other programs like this where people have published peer-reviewed literature. We’re also getting input from First 5, what are they interested in, one of the issues is sustainability, and so that’s why finding out if there are any cost savings associated with this in the long-term, like maybe fewer babies or fewer birthing persons returning to the hospitals.”

Written by: Rachel Shey — city@theaggie.org

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