The concept of Perinatal Networks was first introduced in New York State by a call to action from Governor Mario Cuomo during his “state of the state” message in 1986 when he expressed his goal to reduce the incidence of infant and maternal mortality and developmental disabilities in New York State. The intention was to focus (initially) on the highest risk regions with the eventual goal to reach all areas of New York State. The strategy for achieving this goal was to develop, under the authority of the State Department of Health, the Comprehensive Prenatal-Perinatal Services Networks program (CPPSN) – the Mission of which was established by NYS DOH, was and is: to reduce the incidence of infant mortality, morbidity and developmental disabilities and the incidence of maternal mortality and morbidity.
The design of Perinatal Networks was conceptualized in the document: “Putting the Pieces Together: The Comprehensive Prenatal-Perinatal Services Network Public Health Model Plan”. As stated in the “Putting the Pieces Together” document, the purpose of Perinatal Networks is to coordinate services needed by infants and women of childbearing age, to assure that appropriate services are available and to eliminate all barriers to accessing those services.
In order to accomplish this, networks bring together health and human service providers and consumers to jointly identify and resolve problems of the regional services system. Perinatal Networks are involved in a range of initiatives, which at minimum include: professional (medical, community/public health) and consumer education, information and referral, assessment and coordination of local services, and promote access to health care coverage and may also include adolescent pregnancy prevention, child abuse prevention, lead screening and abatement, and parent support and education programs depending upon the needs and gaps in services in their respective regions. The networks sponsor programs targeted to specific at-risk members of the community and to provider needs for education on special topics, such as screening for substance abuse among pregnant women, smoking cessation or cultural sensitivity training. Each of the Perinatal Networks target a region, ranging in size from one or several Health Districts in New York City to large multi-county regions in rural upstate areas.
The Perinatal Networks have the flexibility, neutrality and credibility to bridge public and private sectors in order to cross geographic boundaries. This type of forum offers the opportunity for multiple counties, hospitals, clinics, individual providers and health service/care organizations to work collaboratively to identify and address common concerns.