Preterm and low-birth weight infants are at an increased risk of developmental delay by the circumstances of their birth. Immediate delays may not be readily apparent at birth or soon after, but are often recognized once the child enters school. Moreover, the optimal time for providing services is early in life when the development of the brain and central nervous system may be influenced. By the time a child reaches school age, this time has passed.
In recognition of the importance of early identification and provision of services for babies born early or with low birth weights, a study was included in the 2006 Joint Commission on Health Care (JCHC) workplan. A workgroup was convened by JCHC staff to examine the adequacy of follow-up services and the potential need for a tracking system for preterm and low-birth weight infants in Virginia. The workgroup cited anecdotal evidence that families are having difficulty accessing services for their preterm and low-birth weight infants, with contributory factors including a general lack of understanding regarding the importance of follow-up services, the cost of services particularly since reimbursement for services is low, and the restrictive eligibility criteria for public programs. It is difficult to determine the extent to which access to services is a problem since data that is specific to preterm and low-birth weight infants is lacking. JCHC voted to convene a workgroup in 2007 to determine whether existing data and tracking systems can be adapted to provide information about preterm and low-birth weight infants.
On behalf of the Joint Commission and staff, I would like to thank the numerous individuals who assisted in this study report, including representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Resources; Department of Education; Department of Health; Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services; March of Dimes; The Medical Society of Virginia; Virginia Association of Community Services Boards; Virginia Association of Health Plans; and Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association.
Kim Snead Executive Director April 2007
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