Provided in partnership with the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), the program offers all parents with newborns free home visits from registered nurses shortly after birth. Family Connects is an evidenced-based strategy to support the health and wellbeing of newborns and their families. UChicago Medicine is the only participating South Side hospital. Rush University Medical Center, Humboldt Park Health and Mount Sinai Hospital also participate in the city program, which began in 2019. The goal is to scale the service to all Chicago birthing hospitals over five years.
“It has always been very important for our obstetrics and pediatric experts to provide the best care possible along the pregnancy journey, from free prenatal classes to breastfeeding support to now being able to continue that care right inside the home,” said Jeffrey Murphy, DNP, CEN, RN, NEA-BC, Vice President, Women’s Children’s and Emergency Services and Associate Chief Nursing Officer at UChicago Medicine. “The first few weeks after delivery can be overwhelming and stressful and having extra in-home support can go a long way for new parents and their newborns.”
Family Connects Chicago provides a comprehensive spectrum of in-home support, starting around age three weeks. Nurses provide health checks for infants and provide parents with information and guidance on a number of topics, like safe sleep, feeding and soothing a crying baby. Family Connects nurses also provide post-partum health checks and ensure that families are connected to healthcare providers for continuing care. Adoptive and foster parents are also eligible to participate. During the COVID pandemic, the home visits are offered by phone or video conference.
An important component of the Family Connects program is its connection to available resources in the community. Even experienced parents have needs, and Family Connects nurses provide a warm hand-off to the services that meet those needs.
“Building systems of support to improve the health and wellbeing of Chicagoans is a priority of the Chicago Department of Public Health, particularly in communities where we see disparities in health outcomes,” said CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, MD. “By partnering with UChicago Medicine, we are expanding our reach to people who give birth, babies and families on the Chicago’s South Side to ensure they have the care and support they need.”
More than 2,700 babies are born each year at UChicago Medicine, and a majority are from homes on the South Side. With the addition of UChicago Medicine, Family Connects Chicago service will be available to an estimated 5,500 families over the next year. The program is voluntary and is offered at no cost to all families from Chicago delivering at participating hospitals.
One of UChicago Medicine’s community health priorities is to reduce health inequities by addressing social determinants of health, one of which being access to care. Partnering with Family Connects Chicago will be another avenue to create better access to care to help in addressing this community need.
Family Connects Chicago is funded through a partnership with the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Maternal and Child Health Services Title V Block Grant program as well as other public and private funding from the City of Chicago, the Illinois Department of Human Services and private philanthropy. It is modeled on the Family Connects International program first developed by Duke University.
For more information, visit www.chicago.gov/family-connects.