Reducing neonatal mortality and morbidity

Investigator: Linda Franck, RN, PhD, FAAN

Location(s): United States


Poor growth during neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) hospitalization is a modifiable risk factor contributing to mortality and serious long-term morbidity for many of the nearly 400,000 preterm infants born each year in the United States (US). Active parent involvement in preterm infant caregiving promotes parent-infant attachment and leads to higher breastfeeding rates, earlier discharge, and improved long-term neurodevelopment. Despite decades of evidence of the positive effects of parental involvement, parents remain for the most part passive bystanders in the NICU setting. Even with many NICUs adopting a Family-Centered Care (FCC) approach, parent-infant contact and parenting skills remain well below desired levels.

Family Integrated Care (FI-Care) is a novel intervention that differs from FCC because it formally teaches and supports parents to be primary caregivers for their infants and restructures the relationship between parents and clinicians so that parents are fully integrated into the care team. There is strong evidence from a large, well-designed cluster randomized trial conducted in Canada and Australia that FI-Care improves infant growth and breastfeeding rates and reduces maternal stress. However, these findings cannot be generalized to US NICUs where parents face many barriers to involvement in their infant's NICU care. The research team has developed a secure, HIPAA-compliant, mobile application to capture high quality data about parent involvement in NICU caregiving and to deliver essential elements of the FI-Care program remotely. This mobile-enhanced FI-Care (mFI-Care) may improve involvement of parents who cannot be present in the NICU during daytime hours due to distance, employment or other responsibilities and family commitments. Increasing access and equity in family-integrated care may improve outcomes for US preterm infants.