The Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) is a program that has been running nationally for many years and is focused on working with first-time, low-income mothers. In a statement by the Department of Health and Human Services Director Tony Keck says, “There is no doubt that Nurse-Family Partnership is a transformative, cost-effective solution to several severe and costly health and social issues in South Carolina.” Keck goes on to say these issues include high rates of pre-term birth and low-birth weight infants.
Monday, Keck joined foundation representatives, medical professionals, community leaders, nurses and clients at a community update to discuss how NFP nurses are working with at-risk families.
Keck says the program is not simply focused on health care; it’s focused on much more than that. He says, “Some of the great results they’ve had is greatly increasing the number of women who go back into the labor force after they’ve had their child, reducing the number of children that get involved with the Juvenile Justice System at a later age.” He continued, “They help decrease the number of pre-term pregnancies. So it really is a program that’s focused on the health and well-being of the mother and the child.”
Keck emphasized that health care services do not equal health and says, “We know that from all the research of many, many years that 90 percent of health and well-being is actually related to things such as income, educational level, healthy choices, personal choices and health behavior and genetics, and only ten percent of it is actually related to health care services.”
Keck says this program has huge positive benefits to the Medicaid program in terms of reducing pre-term birth. He says by shifting Medicaid spending to proven programs like NFP, both social outcomes and health can be improved while lowering overall costs to the state. “Medicaid has not been able to really contribute to the financing of this program,” says Keck. “What we’re trying to do is push against that regulation and figure out ways that Medicaid in South Carolina can become much more involved in helping the sustainability of this program.”
Duke Endowment has partnered with the state in this program and Keck says it’s a perfect example of their responsibility in helping to make this program a success. Keck says, “Duke actually went beyond their initial three-year investment period and made a seven-year investment to the state of South Carolina because they want to make sure that this program is successful here.”
Helping to improve the outcome for those mothers and their newborn child, according to Keck in the long-term, is a savings for the state. NFP currently operates local programs in 12 South Carolina counties. In addition to Lexington and Richland, there are programs in Anderson, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Georgetown, Greenville, Horry, Spartanburg and Williamsburg counties.