News Release

June 6, 2006

Contact: Maureen McGuire, 860-679-4523

UConn Welcomes NICU Family Supportsm Program

March of Dimes Program is Good News for Babies and Families!

FARMINGTON, CONN. – The arrival of a special collaboration between the March of Dimes and the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the University of Connecticut Health Center was announced during a reception today at the Health Center.

Officials with the March of Dimes announced that they have selected UConn’s NICU as the first site in Connecticut for its national NICU Family Supportsm project. The March of Dimes launched this initiative in 2004 with the goal of placing a “family support” specialist in at least one NICU in every state in the country. The March of Dimes is fully funding the salary of each family support coordinator. In Connecticut, the Family Support Program is also receiving support from NewAlliance Foundation.

The UConn project is the 39th in the country and the first in Connecticut. The March of Dimes selected UConn after a thorough selection process and extensive meetings with nursery staff.

Now in its 31st year, the NICU at the UConn Health Center provides care for more than 500 babies every year. It has long served as the newborn regional referral center for northern Connecticut. Babies are transported to UConn from all over Connecticut, as well as surrounding states.

“The NICU Family Support project is critical to our overall goal of improving the health of babies and providing information and comfort to families when their babies need care in a NICU. We are very pleased to be working with the dedicated staff at the UConn Health Center,” said Julie Fronckowiak, state director of the March of Dimes, Connecticut Chapter.

At UConn, families and babies in the NICU will benefit from a full-time, dedicated family support specialist, who will serve as a link between families and their care-givers. This spring, the March of Dimes hired Jeanne Lattanzio, R.N., to fill this position. Ms. Lattanzio, of East Hartford, is a mother, grandmother and formerly served as director of nursing at the UConn Health Center.

“I can think of no better person to assist, comfort and guide families than Jeanne Lattanzio. She is completely devoted to helping others and as a nurse, who worked in this unit for many years, she has a thorough understanding of how the NICU functions,” said Peter J. Deckers, M.D., executive vice president for Health Affairs at the UConn Health Center.

The NICU Family Support program addresses the needs of families throughout the hospitalization, during the transition home, and in the event of a newborn death. Some of the components of the program include:

  • Connection with March of Dimes volunteers who provide parent-to-parent support to families within the NICU setting,
  • Educational materials included in a “Parent Care Kit” that introduces parents to the staff, equipment, procedures and conditions that they may encounter in the NICU,
  • Customized programs developed to serve the NICU population, such as information and support for siblings and the extended family, support for Spanish speaking families, a photo keepsake program, support to ease the transition from the NICU to the home, and bereavement support.

“There’s no question that the experience of having a baby in the NICU can be overwhelming. That’s why we take many steps to help minimize the stress of this experience for parents and babies alike. The NICU Family Support designation is one more program we are pleased to offer families,” said UConn Health Center Hospital Director Steven Strongwater, M.D.

Dr. Strongwater noted that the UConn Health Center is also a nationally recognized leader in an infant-and-family centered approach to care that places special emphasis on the role of parents in supporting their baby’s development. UConn, as a training center for the Newborn Individualized Developmental Care and Assessment Program, is reaching out to help other nurseries across the country adopt this family-centered approach to care.

“We feel very strongly about empowering parents and helping them take very active roles in their baby’s care. This is one more way parents here at UConn will be supported as they embark on one of the most important relationships in their lives,” Dr. Strongwater added.

The March of Dimes is a national voluntary health agency whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes funds programs of research, community services, education, and advocacy to save babies and in 2003 launched a campaign to address the increasing rate of premature birth. For more information, visit the March of Dimes web site at or its Spanish language Web site at

UConn Health includes the schools of medicine and dental medicine, the UConn Medical Group, University Dentists, and John Dempsey Hospital. Home to Bioscience Connecticut, UConn Health pursues a mission of providing outstanding health care education in an environment of exemplary patient care, research and public service. More information about UConn Health is available at

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