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Group care project for pregnant women is underway in the territory

Nicola Hawley, PhD, Yale School of Public Health [courtesy photo]

Pago Pago AMERICAN SAMOA — To encourage pregnant women to show up for their medical check-ups and to make the process less of a burden for mothers-to-be, the LBJ Medical Center has come up with a program that'll provide, among other things, nutrition education and caring for the infant.

The Strong Together Raising Our Next Generation (STRONG) pilot-program between LBJ and Yale University School of Public Health, puts together in a group, women who are due the same month, for a scheduled prenatal care appointment where, while waiting their turn to see the doctor, issues such as dieting are addressed.

The Group Prenatal Care curriculum follows the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology guidelines and has been adapted from the established ‘Expected With Me’ prenatal care curriculum that is insurance and Medicare supported and used in over 400 sites across the US, according to information from the STRONG study summary.

The group care includes a midwife — Kima Faasalele-Sauvasa — and others providing health tips and other information for local pregnant women. Fa’asalele-Sauvasa facilitates the group sessions, while LBJ obstetrician Dr. Bethel Muasau conducts the clinics.

Fa’asalele-Sauvasa along with Yale University assistant professor, Dr. Nicola Hawley, is involved in the study.

Hawley, who has been working on island for about 8 years, said one of the things that she and her colleagues have seen a lot of at LBJ, are pregnant women waiting for a long time for prenatal care.

“The woman goes in to see the doctor and takes 10 minutes for the appointment, but they have been there [waiting] for two hours,” Hawley said in a Samoa News interview last week. She said it's usually difficult for women to keep their routine appointment with the doctor, and then to have them go in together and participate in some other program.

“We said, ‘how do we put together something to fill those two hours?’ One way is providing educational information, to be integrated together with the routine appointment, all at one time,” she explained.

“So the idea is we put them together in one scheduled prenatal care appointment, where they get both a check-up with the doctor and the mid-wife, as well as education on diet, physical activity, breastfeeding, health, labor and delivery, caring for the baby postpartum,” she said. “This is all during the same appointment.”

The pilot-program calls for group of between 8 to 10 women, who are all due the same month. The women in the program are 14 weeks into pregnancy.

“So they’ll be having exactly the same experiences — they’ll be feeling the same body pain, so they’ll be able to get a lot of support from one another,” Hawley explained, adding that group prenatal care has been done in the US consistently over the last 10 years “and have had some really amazing outcomes.”

The group program “really helps women with healthy pregnancies, as well as the newborns,” she added.

The program’s goal is to determine whether group prenatal care can be effective in establishing lifelong changes in behavior that lead to good health during and after pregnancy, according to the STRONG study summary.

The group care curriculum will engage women to address the broad range of needs that can affect their health — from basic and safety needs to social support and medical issues.

Furthermore, the curriculum allows for a unique range and depth of discussion on matters important to both healthy behaviors and healthy outcomes for mothers and babies.

Other examples of aspects of good health in-group discussions include stress reduction, healthy eating and physical activity, healthy labor and delivery, and parenting.

Each woman gets one-on-one time with her provider during medical checks, where she can ask questions privately. Women learn to engage in self-care behaviors by monitoring their own weight and blood pressures during and between sessions.

“This model of care provides a setting with strong social support for women, and is empowering as each mom-to-be learns to take charge of her own healthcare and gains skills to live the healthiest life she can — throughout pregnancy and beyond,” according to STRONG.

For more information on the prenatal group care or to sign up, call 256-8219 or 770-3918.

Sign ups can also be accepted at the DoH Tafuna Health Center prenatal clinic and the LBJ OBGYN clinic.