With a teen pregnancy rate in or near the top 10 of any community in the state, Lowell, Mass., is seeing immediate benefits from Lowell General Hospital's decision to bring teen-oriented pregnancy prevention, parent education and childbirth classes into Lowell High School.
Reaching out to teen moms (Community--Winner)
'Fear is gone,' thanks to Lowell General's program
In the two years since 187-bed Lowell General took its program on the road—after budget cuts by school districts ended “tour groups” that came to the hospital from the high school—the share of 15-year-olds who have chosen to breast-feed has risen to 80% from 40%, while among 16-year-olds it has risen to 94% from 74%. Also, more than half of the teens who gave birth at Lowell General in 2010 had taken the classes, 111 out of 211. They have enrolled a total of 139 students.
Once the high school tours ended, “We saw the girls not as prepared coming to labor and delivery,” says Shelley Donovan, clinical manager of the Birthplace, the hospital's labor and delivery unit.
The classes address how to balance school and child care, the fear of childbirth, and how to handle the challenges of becoming a teen mother.
“Their comfort level has increased,” says Jenna Costa, a certified sexuality and teen childbirth educator, who teaches the classes. “The fear is gone. I find that they come in and have a better, less painful labor experience.”
For bringing about that change, Lowell General has earned the Spirit of Excellence Award for Community.
The hospital's on-site birthing classes attracted women in their 20s and older, and public transportation to the hospital can be spotty, Donovan says. Educators developed a teen-focused workbook, a PowerPoint presentation and four videos that feature teens preparing to deliver, going through labor and delivery, and then bringing their babies home, Costa says.
The classes are held during the school day and are treated as an in-school field trip, Costa says. Significant others who attend Lowell High School are also invited. The classes are held three to four times each school year, and “we found that it was key to do it in one day,” says Najanne Sneed, maternal child health education coordinator. “We tend to lose them if we ask them to come back.”
Scott Taylor, who judged entries for the Community category, says the outcomes of Lowell General's program impressed him. “I tended to lean toward programs that could quote hard numbers,” he says. “Lowell had hard numbers. That's what caught my eye.”
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