Premature birth is a serious and growing problem.
One out of every eight births is preterm in the U.S., defined as before 37 weeks gestation. Prematurity is the leading cause of newborn death and often results in lifelong disabilities. Today, most major hospital systems are investing in women’s services and neonatal care to meet the growing number of preterm births. Unfortunately, community-based programs for parents before, during and after the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or in the event of a loss are not available in Austin and in many metropolitan areas across the nation.
Parents face many challenges caring for infants after a NICU stay.
Researchers have found that parents of preterm infants and babies born with special health care needs often struggle with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Left to handle these issues alone, the prolonged stress can have a profound impact on the entire family unit, often resulting in depression, separation, divorce and child abuse. In addition, parents must navigate complicated insurance and health care systems to advocate for their children. They are faced with complex medical equipment, detailed medication schedules, numerous specialists and complicated medical bills.
Hand to Hold fills an existing gap, which directly helps these parents, thereby improving outcomes for infants and families.
While several organizations serve the preemie parent population, none provide community-based, direct emotional or peer support to the parents after the NICU in Austin and in many cities across the U.S. Hand to Hold was created to fill the service gap that exists among these organizations and to bring them together to better meet the needs of families. Read the Austin American-Statesman series that appeared September 8-9, 2007 by Andrea Ball called “Tiny Babies, Fragile Families” to learn more about this service gap.
Based in Austin, Texas, Hand to Hold, an independent 501(c)3 organization, has made its peer-to-peer support program available nationwide allowing parents to connect across the country to share their personal experiences, and navigation resources are now available online. Utilizing strategic partnerships with Pediatrix Medical Group and participating hospital systems, Hand to Hold is working to expand to other large metropolitan areas within the next three years to provide additional resources, programs and services. Download Prematurity Snapshot with references.