Limiting Health Disparities in At-Risk Infants: NeoRISK Program

Sponsor: U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration

Location(s): United States


With preterm births — and the number of premature infants who survive — on the rise in the United States, UCSF has launched a first-of-its-kind neonatal nursing program in collaboration with the University of Hawaii. The NeoRISK Project aims not only to address the current national shortage of highly skilled neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) but also to prepare graduates to provide vital support to the highest-risk infants as they leave the carefully controlled environment of the hospital. More than half a million babies — or about one in eight — are born premature in the U.S. every year, an increase of more than a third since the 1980s, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Premature infants may face lifelong health problems such as intellectual disabilities; cerebral palsy; breathing and respiratory problems; and vision and hearing loss. “Historically, our focus in the field has always been saving (premature) babies and caring for them in hospital settings,” said NeoRISK Project director Christine Kennedy, RN, PhD, UCSF’s Jack and Elaine Koehn Chair in Pediatric Nursing and a professor of family health care nursing. “But now, with the growing population of preterm infants who survive, there’s a whole set of unique health challenges during the transition from the hospital to the community.”