The state of Michigan is ranked 33rd in the nation for highest teen birth rates. Last year alone, 10,947 children were born to girls between the ages of 15 and 19. Though teen birth rates have been declining for decades now, teen pregnancy continues to be a problematic issue in the United States, especially for individuals more susceptible to poverty and unaccommodating circumstances. In order to combat the negative effects of young motherhood — such as premature birth, delayed education for infants and financial troubles — the state of Michigan has looked to the Colorado-based Nurse-Family Partnership program, which helps young women, particularly from low-income backgrounds, smoothly transition from pregnancy to motherhood. On March 28, a Michigan law went into effect mandating the use of evidence-based or promising practices if the Nurse-Family Partnership receives state funding. The state should further support the Nurse-Family Partnership Program by implementing program standards that educate young mothers and improve the health and development of their children.

In the early 1970s, David Olds, a professor at the University of Colorado, Denver, created the initial idea for the Nurse-Family Partnership program after witnessing the difficulties lower-income children face at urban daycares. Olds developed a program to help first time, low-income mothers and their children, which eventually transformed into the Nurse-Family Partnership Program. As of July 2012, 41 states across the nation have adopted some form of Nurse-Family Partnership.

Basically, the program assigns nurses to visit struggling mothers around their 28th week of pregnancy. The at-home visits last approximately 90 minutes and cover a variety of topics. The nurse will work with the mother to counsel her on maternity health and give her advice on child development, health and education. These visits last until the infant reaches the age of two. Many of the nurses also help the teen mothers start a career. In 2010, it was estimated that the program cost $12,500 per woman for three years of visits. On average, states that have adopted the program will prevent 78 premature births, 73 second-births to teen mothers and 3.4 infant deaths per 1,000 low-income families enrolled.

Currently, Michigan has programs in every county, but they vary in funding and services. The state government should implement clearer standards and help finance the non-profit organization in order to help Michigan’s teen mothers raise their children to meet developmental milestones. Instead of independent operations, each county should collaborate to potentially increase the positive effects of the program throughout the state. Some counties are struggling with long waitlists while other counties are actively searching for families to fit its models of service. “There’s not a shortage of people who need services; we just need to do a better job of connecting people to programs,” said Amy Zaagman, executive director of the Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health.

In the long run, Nurse-Family Partnership programs will save the state money by preventing children from entering Child Protective Services and juvenile homes, and preparing them for their future education. Michigan — and states throughout the nation — should implement a Nurse-Family Partnership program standard across the board. It’s a first step to creating healthier and better educated mothers and children.

Aarica Marsh is an LSA sophomore.

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