Caring for a newborn is a lot of work, especially when many new mothers are being discharged earlier from the hospital and may go home to fewer supports and resources because of the pandemic. Many families find they can use some help after the baby arrives.
A new community program available for many Excellus BlueCross BlueShield members offers families that support. ROC Family Connects provides parents of newborns free telehealth visits with a registered nurse from the child’s primary care practice for the first six months of baby’s life as a support to families in addition to their usual newborn scheduled office visits.
The nurse provides a health check for baby, makes sure mother is recovering after childbirth, and offers information on routine infant care and child development. The nurse also screens family-specific needs in areas of health care, breast feeding, parenting and other issues such as recommendations for childcare or financial resources, identifying postpartum depression, and dealing with new family dynamics. Depending on the family’s interests and needs, nurses will either provide the desired services or connect them to community services.
“ROC Family Connects does just that, it connects parents and infants with resources to promote the child’s and family’s healthy development,” said Dr. Brian Steele, vice president of medical affairs, clinical services for Excellus BCBS. “These visits are designed to provide guidance and support to parents and connect families to community services based on individual needs and preferences.”
Families are enrolled at prenatal care appointments or through the baby’s primary care practice when the baby is born, and a visit is scheduled in the first few weeks of life. Most families will receive one initial visit, with up to three follow up visits in the first six months of life.
ROC Family Connects is a supported adaptation of the Family Connects International program. Family Connects is a program of Duke University’s Center for Child and Family Policy.
The local program is available to many Excellus BCBS members through the health plan’s partnership with Accountable Health Partners, Greater Rochester Independent Practice Association, Rochester Regional Health, Jordan Health, and the University of Rochester Medical Center. The United Way of Greater Rochester, The Children’s Agenda, and Children’s Institute helped to start the program here.
Program data for Family Connects found 94 percent of families who received a nurse visit needed support in at least one area and studies found improved outcomes in child health and well-being in families receiving these visits.
Two studies published in Pediatrics and the American Journal of Public Health found that by the time the baby was six months old, families that participated in Family Connects experienced greater community connections, had access to higher quality child care, showed higher quality parenting behaviors, had enhanced home environments, improved maternal mental health and reduced emergency medical care for infants.
”Adjusting to a newborn is difficult enough, but during a pandemic, families are distanced from friends and family who otherwise would have provided help and guidance,” said Jennifer Cathy, chief impact officer at United Way of Greater Rochester. “Thank you to Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, ESL Federal Credit Union and Konar Foundation for recognizing the importance of partnering to support moms, dads and babies. We look forward to seeing the positive outcomes of this unique program and health care partnership, on families throughout our community.”
“ROC Family Connects will bring together families, community agencies and healthcare providers to give babies the best environment for growth,” said Dr. Jeff Kaczorowski of The Children’s Agenda. “This is an effective way to have a positive impact on families and infants’ well-being.”
Karen Feigel, (585) 238-4308
Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a nonprofit health plan with 1.5 million upstate New York members. The company's mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care. Its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine. With more than 3,500 employees, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members. It also encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. To learn more, visit ExcellusBCBS.com.