The effectiveness of a rural regionalized perinatal care (RPC) program was evaluated by a controlled, population-based design. The RPC program, begun in a carefully selected study region in July 1975, evolved into a system of care which included the following major components: identification of high-risk pregnancies and high-risk newborn infants; obstetric and newborn consultation and referral services between Level I, II, and III centers; professional education for physicians, nurses, and other health professionals; and nutrition and social work consultation. Substantial resources were made available from 1975 to 1980 to implement this "total package" of RPC. A matched, control region was identified which, except for the RPC program, was as comparable as possible to the study region. It was hypothesized that the RPC intervention would have the following effects when the study region was compared with the control region: reduction in fetal and neonatal mortality, no increase in postneonatal mortality, and reduction in obstetric and newborn morbidity. These findings were reported previously. This paper presents results of hypothesized reductions in adverse developmental, neurologic, maternal-infant attachment, and selected physical health outcomes. A sample of 447 infants was assessed by an extensive battery of instruments at 1 year, adjusted for gestational age. The most notable findings were mothers' reports of receptive language development and observations of maternal attachment behaviors that significantly favored the study region. No significant differences between study and control regions were observed for Bayley Mental and Motor Scores, abnormal neurologic signs, and the physical health measures. The impact of rural RPC in North Carolina on the 1-year outcomes is discussed and policy implications are presented.
- Received November 28, 1983.
- Accepted May 10, 1985.
- Copyright © 1986 by the American Academy of Pediatrics