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Healthy babies, healthy families
lead to healthy communities

Wright County public health nurses provide guidance for pregnant women and families with small children

By Doug Voerding

"We want parents to have joy in their kids," said Karen Jorgensen-Royce. "Babies don't come with instruction books, so we're here to help."

Jorgensen-Royce is a public health supervisor with Wright County Health and Human Services. Nine trained nurses and two aides provide that help and education for pregnant women and families with small children through home visits.

Although the home visits are not well known by the general public, Wright County nurses have been making home visits since 1954. Now, more than 600 families in Wright County take advantage of the help, help nurses design together with each family to meet the family's specific needs and answer their specific questions.

Healthy families are important. Babies begin to learn at birth, and the first three years of life are the most critical. Early parent and child contact develops the child's future relationships. When families have healthier habits, children do better in school, have higher self-esteem, and are more independent.

All parents want what's best for their kids, but some parents don't know how to give the best.

That's one reason why Wright County offers home visits that focus on families. Those home visits might be the Nurse Family Partnership Program, the Family Home Visiting Program, the Healthy Families America Program, or a flexible combination from all three programs, depending on each family's needs.

All of these programs follow best practices, knowing that doing certain things makes a difference in the future.



The Nurse Family Partnership is designed specifically for a woman who is pregnant with her first child.

During the home visits, the woman and the visiting nurse discuss a variety of topics for a healthy pregnancy. The woman and nurse may discuss how to build a strong network of support for the woman and her baby, how to make the home safe for the baby, how to find other needed resources, and how to become a better parent. Most importantly, the woman can learn how to set goals for the family's future and how to find ways to reach those goals.

While that list of topics sounds intense, the pregnant woman leads the topics and discussions, letting her decide what meets her needs.

Of course, the baby's father, family members, and even friends can be involved in the home visits, but the pregnant woman and the nurse decide together who gets involved.

The home visits are scheduled by the woman and the nurse. The visits could be every week or two during the pregnancy and continue until the baby is two-years-old.

This free program is open to any woman who is pregnant with her first child, is 0 to 28 weeks pregnant, lives in Wright County, and meets income guidelines.



Family Home Visiting is for pregnant women and parents with young children who live in Wright County. The program is free for everyone.

The program promotes less stress and more fun for parents and their children.

Again, while specific topics are planned by the parents and the visiting nurse, parents may explore essential parenting skills, healthy habits, setting and meeting goals, as well as how to develop self-esteem in young children.

If asked for, breastfeeding education and support is provided.



With the Healthy Families America program support, and encouragement is provided to new parents by recognizing their strengths and sharing information during home visits.

Healthy Families helps parents and children grow together by building confidence and reducing stress to open the joys of being a parent.

Some topics include infant and toddler care, recognizing baby's need and parent needs, discovering child growth, playing with children, and learning about nutrition and physical activity.



The Wright County Home Visit nurses are passionate about their work and dedicated to bringing parents closer to their children.

Nurses who make home visits first have college degrees in registered nursing and have taken additional course work to be certified public health nurses. They participate in on-going training to maintain their certification and to learn about new ways to make the home visits productive.

At the first visit, the nurse answers questions and shows the family the kind of support they can expect.

At the second visit, the parents' interest in the child drives the planning. The programs are always about the child and doing what's best for the child.

Sometimes, what's best for the child includes the parents setting goals for themselves.

"But," said Jorgensen-Royce, "we don't want to turn off the parents. We want everyone to succeed."

"Most visits," said Nurse Karen Eder, "take place on the living room floor. The parents relax, the child relaxes, and I relax. When a child is exploring, they always look back to the parent for support. We then can help build a stronger relationship between the parent and the child, giving the child trust and security."



For more information about these programs, contact Wright County Human Services, Public Health/Family Health Unit, at 1004 Commercial Drive, Buffalo, or by calling 763-682-7456. The office location is east of Walgreen's on Highway 25 North.

The WOW van will be at the Wright County Fair in Howard Lake next week. Feel free to stop in and ask questions. At the fair, the WOW van will also provide a lactation tent for nursing mothers.



Other Wright County Health Resources include:

- The Follow Along Program for families with children 0 - 3 years old that live in Wright County. This program shows parents how to follow the health and development of their young children with ideas on what to teach at each age.  If parents have concerns about the development of their child, resources are provided for the parents to find help for their child to catch up to other children before school.

- Family Planning for uninsured or underinsured women and men of all ages.

- Child car seat checks.

- Wellness Done Wright for uninsured or underinsured children 6 months to 21-years-old. This program includes physical exams, hearing and vision screening, dental screening, and referrals for any needed help.

- Wellness on Wheels (WOW Van) provides reduced-cost health screenings and immunizations, health education and community resources, car seat checks, as well as radon and well testing kits for purchase.



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