Prenatal care program celebrates 30 years of healthy starts for babies

The Poudre Valley Prenatal program was there for Ruby Baca when she needed it most, and it continues to serve families in need in Fort Collins.
Oct. 25, 2019

Ruby Baca is one of the fortunate women who has been served by the Poudre Valley Prenatal program at UCHealth Family Medicine Center – Fort Collins.

In its 30-year history, the prenatal care program has welcomed more than 8,000 babies, including Ruby Baca’s Alena, the youngest of her four children. At a time when Ruby struggled to make ends meet, Alena got a good start thanks to PVP.

Ruby had divorced the father of her three children and become pregnant again, only to be abandoned by the baby’s father. In her distress, she turned to the program, which helped her and countless others.

family photo of mom with her four young children, all of whom got prenatal care but the youngest through the Poudre valley prenatal care program.
Ruby Baca with her children, clockwise from top left, Zach, Breanna, Tiffany and Alena, in 1996. Photo courtesy of Ruby Baca.

An important start is prenatal care

Prenatal care is important because babies born before 37 weeks have a higher rate of hospitalization and illness than full-term babies, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Prenatal care has the potential to identify and treat early indications of premature birth and other fetal problems by assessing the health of both mom and baby on a regular basis.

For Baca, that was gestational diabetes, which can cause increased birth weight, resulting in other issues. With help from PVP, she was able to manage her diabetes and deliver a healthy Alena at full term. Alena and her siblings are now in their 20s and 30s.

“For every $1 invested in prenatal care, it saves $3 in (health care) costs,” said Dr. Larry Kieft, retired OB/GYN physician and clinical director of PVP from its inception until 2010.

Providing complex care

The Poudre Valley Prenatal program serves an under- and uninsured population of women with a holistic approach.

The program has a social worker on staff. And in addition to prenatal care, it provides medical education and family planning. It has a close partnership with the Larimer County Health Department and other community services, and is a site for Medicaid and other governmental program eligibility.

“It’s really complex care because the psychosocial needs of people living in poverty are complex, and many clinics are not equipped to handle that care,” said Dr. Janell Wozniak, PVP’s current program director. “PVP was built and designed to do that and does it very well.”

Importance of access 

In the six months before the program was created in the late 1980s, 50 women with pregnancy-related problems had come to the Poudre Valley Hospital emergency room without ever having been seen by a physician during their pregnancy, according to the program’s records.

The community rallied behind a solution. By expanding the Family Medicine Center Residency Program and adding a prenatal care program to FMC, the underserved population had a place to receive prenatal care within their community.

Within the first 15 months of PVP, that population showing up in the ER dropped to 15.

Today’s prenatal care program

mother stands beside her daughter at high school graduation. mom credits her daughters great start to a prenatal care program.
Ruby Baca stands proudly beside her daughter, Alena, after her graduation from Poudre High School in 2014. Photo courtesy of Ruby Baca.

On average, the Poudre Valley Prenatal program helps with 275 deliveries annually. In 2018, it conducted more than 2,700 prenatal care visits with expecting mothers.

Though the biggest benefit is for women and families, the program provides an important learning opportunity for residents who provide most of the care for the women, said Dr. Austin Bailey, assistant director of the (FMC) Residency Program at the time of PVP’s inception.

“It was more than just measuring their tummies and weighing them,” he said. “It’s really about finding the social determinants, where they were with housing, finding food. Those determinants have a significant impact on health.”

Kieft agreed, adding that those aspects of care are what made the job so rewarding.

“I felt real meaning in caring for women that were otherwise marginalized,” he said. “And then to bring that to new physicians in hopes that they would bring that into their profession — to model behavior that all people deserve respect.”

For Baca, the program and how it cared for her made all the difference at that time.

“That program got me from point A to point B at a time in my life when I needed the help,” she said. “It was such a relief to know that that part of my life would be taken care of. They were my saving grace…”

About the author

Kati Blocker has always been driven to learn and explore the world around her. And every day, as a writer for UCHealth, Kati meets inspiring people, learns about life-saving technology, and gets to know the amazing people who are saving lives each day. Even better, she gets to share their stories with the world.

As a journalism major at the University of Wyoming, Kati wrote for her college newspaper. She also studied abroad in Swansea, Wales, while simultaneously writing for a Colorado metaphysical newspaper.

After college, Kati was a reporter for the Montrose Daily Press and the Telluride Watch, covering education and health care in rural Colorado, as well as city news and business.

When she's not writing, Kati is creating her own stories with her husband Joel and their two young children.