September 06, 2021

Amy Martin and Akesha Gainer: Supporting Maternal Health From the Beginning

If you’re pregnant, you may be interested in a comprehensive set of home visiting services provided by two programs administered by The Foundation for Delaware County: Healthy Start and the Nurse-Family Partnership.

Using two different approaches, the programs focus on supporting mothers to ensure healthy pregnancies and good parenting while promoting breastfeeding, birth planning, healthy relationships and positive health practices. Healthy Start uses telephonic and home visiting case managers to provide care coordination and education; Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) specially trained nurses make regular home visits. Both programs have a national presence.

NFP enrolls pregnant mothers before the 28th week of pregnancy with the objective of preparing them physically and emotionally for a healthy pregnancy and birth. Home visits are scheduled to meet the mom’s needs and she has the option to choose what she wants to learn and talk about at each visit. Families can continue to receive visits until the baby turns two years old.  

Before birth, the nurses pay close attention to the health of the mother. “After birth, we take a look at the parent-child interaction,” says Amy Martin, an NFP supervisor. “We try very much to highlight the mom’s strength and boost her in her confidence.” Martin says NFP also helps mothers set goals for self-sufficiency and provides them with the skills and confidence to go back to school or find a job. NFP moms are supported while making goals to improve their lives and their childrens lives.

Healthy Start does not limit its services to first-time mothers. The program enrolls pregnant women up to 10 weeks postpartum and serves until the baby is 18 months. Trained case managers provide education and information about the importance of a healthy pregnancy, reproductive life planning, breast-feeding, early childhood growth and development, safe sleep, life skills, leadership training and financial literacy. The program’s case managers coordinate care, making sure clients are referred to other services and agencies when necessary. For example, if mothers need assistance with legal issues, Healthy Start can make that referral.

“An asset to both programs is our medical-legal partnership program,” says Akesha Gainer, Healthy Start Social Services director. “It provides civil legal services to our participants. Our team of lawyers works with case managers and nurses to address the social determinants of health that could prevent them from having healthy pregnancies and healthy birth outcomes.”

The programs cover different geographic regions. NFP covers the whole county; Healthy Start serves Chester and its contiguous communities, which includes Eddystone, Boothwyn, Upland, Parkside, Chester Township, Trainer, Marcus Hook and Linwood.

Coordination between Healthy Start and NFP is tight. Gainer and Martin say their case-managers and nurses work closely to ensure that clients receive the best suite of services. In fact, there is some overlap between the two programs: About 20-25 percent of NFP mothers also participate in Healthy Start.

Overall, NFP serves about 180 families in the county with its eight nurse home visitors. Healthy Start can serve up to 700 women, men and children in Chester and nearby communities.