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Southern Leaders Seek In-School Clinics

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A task force appointed by the Southern governors and chaired by Gov. Richard W. Riley of South Carolina has called for school-based health clinics for teen-agers and expanded health curricula in the schools as part of a comprehensive effort to lower the South's infant-mortality rate, the highest in the nation.

The Southern Regional Task Force on Infant Mortality, a joint endeavor of the Southern Governors' Association and the Southern Legislative Conference, issued the recommendations on the basis of a 19-state survey that found shortcomings across the South in the delivery of maternal- and pediatric-health services to the 6poor, adolescents, and residents of rural counties.

Preventive Health Care

"Preventive maternal- and infant-health care more than pays for itself and is an absolute imperative for improving infant survival in the South," the report said. "It is in the long-term financial interest of the states to assure universal preventive care that will reduce the need for more costly after-the-fact treatment."

The task force recommended establishing special health-care clinics for adolescents, including school-based clinics, to address the problem of teen pregnancy.

Teen-age mothers are at risk of having babies with low birth weights, "the factor most commonly associated with the death or disability of newborns," the report said. "In addition to being physically immature, teens tend to be poor, unmarried, uneducated, and less likely to have good health habits."

The task force cited general-health clinics in the high schools of Jackson, Miss., and a plan to establish school-based clinics in Delaware as examples of current efforts to address the problem of teen-age pregnancy. It also noted the establishment of a clinic serving teen-agers in a shopping mall in DeKalb County, Ga.

The report also recommended that family-planning services be offered "routinely" at health-care sites serving women of childbearing age. "The health-care system should emphasize to childbearing women that planning a reproductive career must become as important as planning a vocational career," the report stated.

In addition, the task force called on schools to incorporate "family-life education and courses to teach self-esteem and life skills" into their health-education curricula. "This effort should be coordinated with individuals representing health and hu-man-resource agencies, departments of education, and representatives from community and religious groups, as well as voluntary organizations," the report said.

Impact of Poverty

Recognizing the impact of poverty on the delivery of health services, the report also called on Southern states to set eligibility levels for Aid to Families with Dependent Children at no less than 50 percent of the federal poverty level and to establish special health-care programs for indigent mothers.

The report also urged that hospitals be required to admit all women in labor, without regard to their health-insurance coverage, and to design transportation systems for getting pregnant women and newborns to and from health-care facilities.

As part of a comprehensive plan to prevent infant mortality, the task force also suggested:

Statewide coordinating councils to oversee the planning, delivery, and financing of family-planning and maternal- and infant-health services.

State plans for transporting pregnant women and newborn babies to and from appropriate health-care sites.

Deploying mobile van units to provide on-site health services in rural areas where access to high-quality care is a continual problem.

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