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Released November 22, 2004


HATTIESBURG - The Institute for Disability Studies, Mississippi's University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, at The University of Southern Mississippi has received a $200,000 one-year planning grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to promote the use of health information technology (HIT). Awarded through HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), this program builds on President Bush's initiative to use HIT to improve the nation's health care system.

IDS' Project CONNECT (Creating Online NICU Networks to Educate, Consult and Team) will develop, implement, and evaluate a cooperative effort using HIT to facilitate a continuum of appropriate medical and developmental care from the time infants are admitted to Neonatal Intensive Care Units through the transition process to community-based health care services for infants most at risk for long-term neurodevelopmental problems. The project works in collaboration with Forrest General Hospital and Memorial Hospital in Gulfport.

According to Dr. Jane Siders, director of the institute, "Funding for Project CONNECT is the result of multiple years of collaboration with Forrest General Hospital and Southern Neonatology Group to develop and refine developmental care procedures for premature and high risk-infants admitted to the NICU."

Project CONNECT will build on the successes of the Developmental Care Program at Forrest General Hospital which has been implemented by the NICU staff at FGH including neonatologists Dr. Clint White, Dr. Randall Henderson, and Dr. Kerry Stewart of Southern Mississippi Neonatology, in collaboration with Terri Daniels, developmental care specialist at the Institute for Disability Studies.

Memorial Hospital in Gulfport will also participate in the research and will serve as a training site for testing the use of peer-to-peer technology for sharing developmental care practices between medical staff.

The purpose of Project CONNECT is to develop a plan to use technology to provide technical assistance and training to other NICUs across the state. In addition, technology will be used to better inform community health providers of an infant's status upon transition from the NICU, thus improving follow-up health and developmental care. After the formation of a multi-organizational plan, IDS will be eligible to apply for implementation funds from AHRQ.

IDS provides university training, community service activities, research, and information that promote the independence, productivity, and community inclusion of individuals with disabilities and their families. For more information about IDS, visit or call 1-888-671-0051 (TTY).


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December 9, 2004 12:24 PM