Why is Healthy Start important?
The health of a mother and her newborn should not be determined by their zip code. The foundation’s Healthy Start program addresses these issues.
Between 2007 and 2009, the rate of infant mortality among African American women in southeast Delaware County was more than two-and-a-half times greater than the national rate. And it was higher than the rate in 56 other countries.
Further, the 15.7 deaths per 1,000 live births for African American women in these communities was more than six times higher than the rate for white non-Hispanic women and three times the rate for Hispanic women in these communities.
What does Healthy Start do?
Healthy Start is a federally funded program. For over 20 years, the program has reduced the infant mortality rate and improved birth outcomes in the target area. This includes Chester, Upland, Eddystone, Woodlyn, Parkside, Chester Township, Marcus Hook, Trainer and Linwood. The program serves pregnant women, expectant fathers, the family and children up to age two. Services include the following:
- Intensive outreach, engagement and recruitment of pregnant women
- Tiered case management based on assessed need and home visiting
- Education that focuses on health, pregnancy, parenting, early childhood development, life skills, financial literacy and management
- Civil legal information and leadership development
Healthy Start serves a minimum of 800 participants annually. It uses quality improvement, performance monitoring and program evaluation to track and improve results. Women can enroll during their pregnancy and after delivery. They can continue in the program until the child is eighteen months. For information about how to apply, download the Healthy Start brochure.
What does the research say?
Recent research suggests that several factors contribute to poor birth outcomes. These include where a mother lives, adverse childhood experiences and trauma, and preconception care. African American women with less than a high school diploma are particularly at risk.
Several unique components of the program are leading to improved outcomes.
- Delaware Law School’s Medical Legal Partnership: This is a unique partnership between Healthy Start and Widener University School of Law. It provides direct legal representation, systemic advocacy and training to support program participants, staff and the community.
- El Centro – Center for Hispanic Resources: The center is a “one-stop-shop” that connects program participants and other individuals with a range of services. Among these are translation, appointment scheduling, health education, assistance with applications and agency referrals.
- Perinatal Periods of Risk: The PPOR project, in collaboration with the Delaware County Child Death Review Team, collected data and reviewed fetal and infant deaths. The purpose of the project was to better understand why infants are dying during certain periods of risk.
What do participants say?
Program participants say Healthy Start has had a significant positive impact on their lives. “I almost dropped out of school when I became pregnant. But my Healthy Start case manager helped me sign up for home school,” one participant said. “Now I have my high school diploma.”
Another participant said having access to a lawyer ensured better access to services. “Before, agencies were giving me a run around, but having a lawyer there gets things done. Her help is very effective and has had a huge impact on my family.”
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