Family Solutions of the Lowcountry

003Family Solutions of the Lowcountry
1732 Village Park Drive
St. Matthews Road (P.O. Box 2889)
Orangeburg, SC 29116
Phone: 803-531-8008
Fax: 803-531-8007
http://lowcountryhealthystart.com/

In South Carolina today, Low Country Healthy Start (a program of Family Solutions of the Lowcountry) is working in high risk communities to reduce the devastating and costly consequences of infants born too soon, who weigh too little and those infants who begin, and too often, live their lives with less than optimum health. At this time, the Healthy Start program is supported, in large part, by the US Department of Health and Humans Services, Health Resources Services Administration, Bureau of Maternal and Child Health. The Low Country Healthy Start program is focused on reducing infant mortality and eliminating perinatal disparities. In the communities where Healthy Start works, the highest risk group of women and infants are African American. The programs serve women and families of all races, but the focus is on the African American population living in Allendale, Bamberg, Hampton, and Orangeburg, counties.

 

The Low Country Healthy Start program is supported by highly competitive federal grants awarded only to excellent programs with significant expertise and experience working in communities with exceptionally high infant death rates. The Healthy Start program has forged strong local partnerships working with women, their families, private obstetrical and pediatric providers, hospitals, Community Health Centers and, community, faith and civic leaders.

 

Low Country Healthy Start began services in 1997, based on effective models of care tailored for South Carolina. Healthy Start work is targeted exclusively on eliminating disparities in perinatal health, by working directly with the population with the greatest differences (disparities) in health outcomes. The target populations, therefore, are African American women of child bearing age, pregnant women, infants and their families.

 

Why is Healthy Start effective? How?

 

The Low Country Healthy Start program works directly with pregnant women/girls or women/girls who have recently delivered to:

 

  • help women understand what health and social services are available in their community.

  • use the health and medical services that help improve their health.

  • advocate for themselves and their families.

  • increase interconceptional periods (the time from when a pregnancy ends and another begins) so that women recover fully from the pregnancy, the infant gets a healthy start and the woman continues her education and/or employment goals.

  • connect women to other critical services such as housing, education, job training, job finding, transportation and child care.

  • provide education geared to financially poor women, based on their reading level and understanding level, and their families on the importance of being healthy before pregnancy.

  • help women understand and make better lifestyle choices – leading to improved health and improved quality of life.

 

 

Healthy Start works with local health, medical and social service providers to:

 

  • provide risk appropriate care to vulnerable perinatal populations.

  • increase access to early, continuous and risk-appropriate prenatal care.

  • increase access to infant care.

  • increase access, acceptability and utilization of effective family planning services.

  • increase access to medical homes for post-partum women and infants.

 

Low Country Healthy Start provides effective outreach and case management services, including:

 

  • outreach services designed to assist women of child bearing age and their families and friends, by letting them know services are available that can help them improve their chances of having a healthy baby.

  • case management services for pregnant women, their infants and to women who are post-partum (have delivered).

  • health education and in-home services to help pregnant and post-partum women learn what services are available in the community, how to care for themselves during and after pregnancy, how to care for and encourage appropriate development for their infants, how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted disease and unintended pregnancy, how to eat right and the importance of physical activity

  • social work counseling and referral for pregnant and post-partum women suffering from stress, depression and hopelessness

 

Low Country Healthy Start work, through developing and staffing local consortia made up of community, health, faith and civic leaders to:

 

  • raise awareness about why infant mortality is considered the tip of the iceberg and why we should be concerned with infant deaths and what that means for a community. For example, the infant mortality rate in a community is a strong indicator of the quality of life in the community. Infant mortality is a rate calculated using the number of infant deaths in a community, divided by the number of live births and then multiplied by 1,000. This calculation provides the infant mortality rate (IMR). By law, hospitals and others report the number of births, birth weights and the number of infants who die before their first birthday. This provides the data elements to calculate IMR. The IMR is used to then used to estimate the number of infants born alive but who suffer from lifelong, costly disabilities that cost the family, the community in increased education classes and all of society. For every infant who dies in the first year, it is estimated that three infants live but too often with life-long disabilities. That’s how IMR is just the “tip of the iceberg” and why investing in perinatal care makes great business sense.

  • raise funds which in one HS are primarily used as educational incentive grants for women who have successfully timed pregnancy (i.e. not become pregnant again for two years after delivery) and who are interested in furthering their education through earning a GED or to reach other educational objectives.

  • understand the particular challenges of providing and receiving perinatal care in rural, underserved, low income communities.

 

Success and Progress:

 

Healthy Start works to reduce the suffering indicated by high infant mortality rates. Infant mortality is an internationally significant indicator which measures the number of infants born alive but who dies before their first birthday. Much can be done to reduce risk factors and improve the health of infants and their mothers.

 

In Healthy Start service areas, African American infants are at substantially higher risk of death and disability. Data for every county served by Healthy Start in South Carolina is available that can be used to compare total infant death rates with rates for the total population and the black population.

 

Healthy Start programs and our partners are making impressive strides in reducing African American infant deaths. The fact that in most Healthy Start service area counties black infant mortality rate is lower than the state’s black infant mortality rate and that is a major accomplishment.

 

Low Country Healthy Start program has also helped the service area achieve a statistically significant reduction in African American births to teens 17 years of age and younger 1999 to 2002.

 

Healthy Start serves African American pregnant women, infants and post-partum women at high risk for infant deaths, low weight births and unintended pregnancy.

 

Year 2006, in the Low Country Healthy Start program, not one infant born to a Healthy Start participant died. This means that the number of infants and children born with poor health also decreased as infant mortality can be used as a measure of morbidity.

 

Healthy Start also provides outreach services to pregnant and post-partum women and infants. Effective care in the perinatal period (time surrounding birth) has to be provided in a timely fashion, i.e. women need to receive prenatal care in the first three months or pregnancy and continuously, in order to identify and reduce risks. Many women and their partners do not think about receiving care if they are not sick. For example, outreach providers get the word out to high risk women and their families and friends that prenatal care is very effective but is most effective if received early.

 

Healthy Start also provides effective case management services, sometimes called Resource Mother Services. Healthy Start case management services have an important nuance making them more effective. In HS programs, Resource Mothers are generally women matched economically and culturally to the women to whom they provide services. Healthy Start provide intensive education and support to the Resource Mothers who then are able to work effectively with pregnant and post-partum women, as well as with the health and social service providers also providing care and services to this vulnerable population.

 

Resource Mothers serve as coaches, cultural bridges, mentors and supporters helping women access needed services and understand the often complex web of health and social services available. The level of understanding about what pregnant women are facing and the difficulties of life lived, often in poverty, makes Resource Mothers very effective and, through their work, help women use services appropriately (i.e. attend all prenatal visits, take the infant in for immunizations, use contraceptives effectively) which reduces health care cost and improves health.

 

Healthy Start provides effective interconceptional services, assisting women in selecting an appropriate, safe method of contraception that she and her partner will use, resume her educational course, find housing, as well as address important health issues such as vision and periodontal care.

 

Healthy Start is the only organization focused entirely on reducing disparities in perinatal health. Focus improves performance and improved performance helps South Carolina reduce health costs and improve the quality of life of its citizens.