Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia offers one of the largest CenteringParenting® programs in the country and the largest in Pennsylvania. CenteringParenting is a model of care that combines one-on-one child health assessment, interactive learning and community building in a group setting. The aim of the program is to reduce infant mortality by empowering participants with the skills needed to manage their baby’s health as well as their own.
The CenteringParenting Program at Einstein is funded by the federal Healthy Start initiative. The CenteringParenting model of group care was developed by the Centering® Healthcare Institute, a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve health by transforming care through Centering groups. CenteringParenting® provides family centered well-child care for the first two years following the Bright Futures™ nationally recognized guidelines, and CenteringPregnancy® is for prenatal care, and is also offered at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia. Cynthia DeLago, MD, a pediatrician in Einstein’s Department of Pediatrics, oversees the CenteringParenting program.
“The response has been so positive that in just two years our program has grown to 36 separate groups,” says Dr. DeLago. Each group includes six to eight same-age infants and their mothers, mother’s partners and support people. “Our first group recently graduated after being in the program for two years and the families plan to meet again when the babies turn two and a half.” Medical residents and faculty in Einstein’s Pediatrics Residency Program lead the groups after undergoing comprehensive training.
Improved Health Outcomes
Data has shown that Centering families have better attendance for their well-child visits and better attendance leads to higher immunization rates, longer periods of breastfeeding and additional opportunities to screen for maternal mental health.
In 2016, 80 percent of participants in Einstein’s CenteringParenting groups reported that they always adhere to infant safe sleep practices. This has shown to be a strong contributor to reducing the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) which historically has been an extremely difficult problem in the City of Philadelphia. In addition, 86 percent of patients in Einstein’s CenteringParenting groups initiate breastfeeding, compared to Philadelphia’s 2010 rate of 60 percent. Another significant benefit is that 86 percent of participants were given referrals for programs and resources in the community (e.g., food, heating, transportation or child care services) which means these families are taking steps to create a safe, healthy environment for themselves and their babies.
Many participants join the program having been in a CenteringPregnancy group so they already feel connected to some of the moms and families. Each CenteringParenting visit, which is two hours long, starts with a one-on-one health assessment by a healthcare provider. Moms are actively involved, tracking their baby’s weight and growth, immunizations and oral health. Part of the assessment includes moms weighing themselves and checking their blood pressure since they need to be healthy in order to care for their babies.
Following the assessment, moms, babies, and their support people sit in a circle and the session, which is designed to be fun and educational, is led by a pediatric provider. A curriculum is followed and each session addresses a specific health issue, including breastfeeding, safe sleep habits, discipline, family planning, child development, and more.
“Our CenteringParenting groups help moms become more confident in caring for their babies,” says Dr. DeLago. “My hope is that this approach creates a generation of parents who will know how to advocate for themselves and their families when it comes to healthcare. This model helps build long-lasting bonds between patients, providers and community partners. We see bonds begin to form after just a few sessions with participants exchanging phone numbers and inviting each other to their babies’ birthday parties,” Dr. DeLago adds.
The CenteringParenting Program at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia is in its third year of a five-year Healthy Start grant awarded through the Health Resources and Services Administration of the federal government (grant number H49MC28142). There are 51 hospitals or health centers in the country offering CenteringParenting and three hospitals in Pennsylvania offer the program.