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National Minority Health Month: Saint Thomas Health's La Clinica Nueva Vida offers access, care

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- April 10, 2013 – National Minority Health Month raises awareness of the health needs of African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans and other minorities that are at a disproportionately high risk for preventable illnesses and premature death. The cause is a familiar one at Saint Thomas Health hospitals, where several targeted programs are in place to identify and address the needs of minority populations.  

One such program is La Clinica Nueva Vida, which offers prenatal and childbirth care to uninsured pregnant women, primarily low-income Spanish speakers. Saint Thomas Health started La Clinica Nueva Vida in 2001, the same year Minority Health Month was established, after realizing that many Hispanic women were not receiving any prenatal care. Instead, women arrived in the emergency room already in labor, a situation that is fraught with danger for mother and child. 

“Our original purpose was to make prenatal care more accessible. It’s very clear from research that prenatal care makes a big difference in the outcome for mom and baby,” said Tish Rainey, certified nurse midwife with La Clinica Nueva Vida. “It’s also a huge opportunity for education about parenting, breastfeeding, and leading a healthy lifestyle.”     

La Clinica Nueva Vida offers full prenatal care until the last weeks of pregnancy, which includes lab tests, ultrasounds, health and wellness counseling and any procedures needed to correct or address complications. Then, women are seen by one of two obstetricians at Baptist Hospital for delivery, before returning to La Clinica Nueva Vida for postnatal care. Without these services, prenatal care would be out-of-reach to many low-income Hispanic women in Middle Tennessee. 

The need for care is great and growing: La Clinica Nueva Vida had 3,150 patient encounters and delivered 253 new babies in 2012, up from 1,800 patient encounters and 140 new babies in 2008. The clinic also piloted “Centering,” a unique approach to care that facilitates prenatal groups. Funded by grants from the Baptist Healing Trust and the March of Dimes, “Centering” connects expectant mothers with their peers through regular sessions where the women discuss pregnancy and childbirth, listen to guest speakers, play games, and support each other in a warm, open environment. 

Nationwide, participating in group prenatal care has been associated with a 33 percent reduction in preterm births. That statistic corresponds with the outcomes Rainey has observed at La Clinica Nueva Vida, where patients that participate in prenatal groups are more likely to show up for appointments and breastfeed their newborns. 

“Creating support for women is an exciting feature we are able to offer. I can think of several examples of times that ‘Centering’ made a difference,” Rainey said. “One that stands out is a young woman who started to have signs of preterm labor less than 24 hours after her prenatal group discussed that topic. I’m not sure that she would have felt comfortable calling a clinic or someone she didn’t know, but she called us. She was able to get to the hospital, and they helped halt her labor. She ended up having her baby a week past her due date.” 

For Rainey, such stories bring a human face to the health disparities that Minority Health Month seeks to recognize and address.

 “We’re just grateful for all the support La Clinica Nueva Vida has received from St. Thomas Health, particularly from the St. Thomas Foundation and the Baptist Hospital Obstetrics Department, and also from the obstetricians who deliver our patients at Baptist. We’re excited to continue our work in the community,” she said. 

Clinica Nueva Vida has two locations, including the Saint Thomas Family Health Center South at 4928 Edmondson Pike, Suite 205, and the Saint Thomas Family Health Center West at 5201 Charlotte Avenue. For more information about Clinica Nueva Vida, call the south clinic at (615) 222-1400 or the west clinic at (615) 222-1900.

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