The Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation announced yesterday two grants totaling almost $750,000 to Georgetown University to support research and clinical care involving infant mortality, a serious problem in the District of Columbia.
A one-year grant of $100,000 was given to the university's School of Nursing to pay for full-time nurse midwives to provide prenatal care at two Washington public health prenatal clinics -- the Hunt Place clinic in Northeast and the Adams-Morgan clinic in Northwest.
The nurses will perform physical examinations of pregnant women as well as provide counseling on nutrition and good health practices, according to Elizabeth M. Hughes, dean of the nursing school.
A recent study by the Greater Washington Research Center, pointing to the overall infant mortality rate of 22.6 deaths per 1,000 live births in the District of Columbia, stressed the need to reach high-risk mothers during pregnancy and to impress upon them the importance of good prenatal health habits for themselves and their children.
Hughes said the nurse midwives, in addition to providing physical care and information, will try to establish a "trusting relationship" with the patients, helping them to understand their pregnancy and referring them to a physician when necessary.
The second grant, $644,000 over three years, will allow the university's medical center to appoint a specialist in problems of fetuses and newborns who will coordinate joint work by the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, the medical center and the pregnancy research branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Eunice Shriver, executive director of the Kennedy Foundation, said the award was made to Georgetown because the Kennedy Institute is "critical" as an ethical resource to examine issues raised by the development of new technology and techniques in caring for pregnant mothers, fetuses and newborn infants.
"For example," she said, "if there are invasive surgical procedures to be carried out [in the uterus] through the mother's body, how do we balance the risk to mother and fetus? Who should make the decision about whether the fetus should be treated at all? How much risk should be imposed on the mother? Or upon the fetus?"