Herald-Sun Guest Columnist
Liz Lorduy was thankful that a registered nurse came to her home after the birth of her baby Lizabeth this fall. Lizabeth was a small baby and she was hoping to have another weight check before her next pediatric visit. Her nurse, Rosalia Monaco provided support for the entire family, answered health questions and weighed the baby. Lorduy said she signed up for the visit in the hospital because she knew the value of having a nurse at your disposal. “And this is not the first time. It’s actually the second time I had a visit. The first time was two years ago … with my oldest child,” said Lorduy. “I was really excited to have her come to my house because I had a lot of questions about my baby.”
Like all Durham Connects visits, there was no charge to Liz or her family. The program costs about $1.8 million per year and is now struggling to find permanent funding to provide the free visits.
Durham is one of the very few counties in the country to offer nurse home visits to EVERY parent of a newborn. How much do we value this service in our community and who should support it? These are big questions that the Durham Connects nurse home visiting program is facing. Community leaders know parents deserve this support. A mountain of research shows that early intervention is a good investment in any community and parents love it. Yet, this program is struggling to survive.
Durham Connects is a nonprofit founded with community support. Duke University, the County Health Department, hospitals, the Department of Social Services and the nonprofit Center for Child & Family Health all came together to make it happen starting in 2008. The program has proven to support positive parenting, improve child care quality selection, reduce hospital overnights and increase connections to community supports. This means that for every $1 invested in Durham Connects, the community saves more than $3 within the first year. Not a bad return on investment.
As children and parents are supported, kids are more ready for school, which leads to better graduation rates, better jobs and less crime. As our babies grow, we will start to see these benefits. It all adds up to better family well-being and a stronger community. It starts at birth. Durham Connects nurses do a lot more than weigh babies and check mom’s blood pressure. They support breastfeeding, connect with doctors, promote early literacy, advise on home safety, support positive sibling and family dynamics, connect with quality child care … this list goes on. Home visiting nurses are more than nurses, they are the superheroes of our community!
Durham Connects’ multi-year pilot was funded by The Duke Endowment. Then the county stepped in to provide a significant portion of the budget. However, this program is ready to be sustained entirely by our own community and we need help getting there. Leaders expect that Durham Connects will need a variety of supports to reach our goal. If everyone in Durham donated $6, the program would be fully funded. Durham Connects will continue to seek grants and private donations, but community support is also needed.
When asked to whom she would recommend Durham Connects’ service, Lorduy said, “Everyone, everyone. First of all, they come to your house. You don’t have to move yourself. That is number one.”
You can help by telling your friends how great it is to be born in Durham. Like us on Facebook and consider volunteering, or make a donation online at www.durhamconnects.org.
Jeannine Sato is director of the Durham Connects nurse home visiting program for parents of newborns.