July 22, 2004 Contact: Jennifer Riordan, 272-0261 office, 220-0702 cell

Bridgid Isworth, 272-3690 or Allison Thompson, 272-3690

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Demand for the University of New Mexico Special Perinatal Outreach Program, the largest program of its kind in the nation, is growing rapidly, yet funding for its support is dwindling.

The outreach program was initially funded as a line item "special program" in the New Mexico state budget. But since that time, cuts in funding have steadily decreased over the past three years. Meanwhile, the program's patient volume has more than tripled.

Professor and Chief of Obstetrics and Maternal-Fetal Medicine Dr. Kimberly Leslie said that despite funding cuts, an ever-increasing number of patients need to be seen every week as more providers and communities become aware of the program.

"Our clinics are over-filled, and we are continually being asked to set up new sites every year," Leslie said. She anticipates the program will directly impact more than 7,600 pregnant women in New Mexico this year alone.

Funding for the program continues to decrease, Leslie feels that the relatively modest investment in the program made by the state results in net savings by decreasing the costs of caring for very ill mothers and babies who do not have access to preventative and adequate high-risk pregnancy care.

Furthermore, Leslie proposes that the program's ability to achieve early diagnosis and intervention of mothers unable to travel to a city-center, decreases the rate of maternal and perintatal morbidity and mortality in the state.

Since its establishment in 1998, the program has seen dramatic growth, increasing from two sites at its inception, to 14 sites this year.  The program currently operates in 12 New Mexico cities and hosts 34 clinics a month.

The Special Perinatal Outreach Program is designed to reach high-risk pregnancies of New Mexican mothers-to-be.  Women from every county in New Mexico deliver at UNM Hospital (UNMH), specifically those with high-risk pregnancies.

The Program was established in response to an acute need to provide care for high risk pregnant women throughout New Mexico. These women constitute the bulk of the maternal transports to UNMH, averaging nearly 70 per month, with their babies making up more than 50 percent of the neonates admitted to the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at UNMH.

Jointly operated by the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UNM Hospital, the program brings the finest obstetrical expertise and technology to pregnant women throughout New Mexico, according to Leslie.  "The program assures that women in outlying areas of the state have access to the best medical care available. This care significantly improves the outcomes of their pregnancies and the health of their babies."

Despite the lack of funding, Leslie feels UNMH has recruited the best high-risk obstetricians and perinatologists.  "The Special Perinatal Program is the most important support mechanism we have to continue to recruit exceptional providers and to provide much needed care to high-risk mothers and babies," Leslie concluded.