Community-Based Care Improves Birth Outcomes for Women At Risk
athryn Hall, founder and executive director of the Center for Community
Health and Well-Being (the Center), first became interested in infant
mortality in the 1980s while working for the California Department of Health
“I saw the costs to the state system associated with negative birth outcomes,
and I wanted to save the state some money,” Hall said. It didn’t take long for
this interest to take root, motivating her to start her own community-based
organization. Over the next 14 years, she developed a true passion for ensuring
healthy births among underserved women in the Sacramento area.
Under Hall’s leadership, a number of different programs have been established
at the Center that target at-risk pregnant women, their partners and their
younger siblings. Notably, its Birthing Project model has been replicated in
more than 70 communities.
The Center received a three-year grant of $120,000 from TCWF to provide
prenatal and health promotion services and to build the organization’s fund
“Community-based agencies that know their target populations are vital parts of
California’s health care safety net,” said Alicia Procello, TCWF program
director. “With the struggling economy and state budget crisis, it is
critically important that agencies like the Center have a broad base of support
for their programs.”
||The Center’s programs guarantee that at-risk young women receive culturally
competent prenatal care and options for delivery at hospitals, local birthing
centers or at home. They have the option of being paired with a “SisterFriend,”
members of the community who volunteer to provide emotional support and
assistance to women throughout their pregnancies and up to their babies’ first
birthday. Clients are also linked to supportive services that provide
assistance in such areas as housing, education and their on-site substance
abuse program. Women are encouraged to bring their younger siblings to the
Center for participation in its prevention programs. The Center’s staff is
reflective of the primarily African-American and Latina clients served, most of
whom are members of the community in which the Center is located.
More than 20 percent of the women who enroll in the Center’s prenatal program
present with positive drug screens. The social workers’ offices are purposely
located near the Center’s midwives’ offices. Staff helps women deal with
immediate stressors first, such as finding a safe place to stay and helping
with substance abuse problems. Then they escort the women across the hall to
meet with a midwife. Fathers are encouraged to enroll in The Barber Shop, a
program that provides information, services and support to new dads.
“It’s easier to change your behavior when you’re not working alone,” the
Center’s Hall said. “Because of the difficult circumstances in their lives,
many people with low health status don’t feel good about themselves or have a
sense of purpose in their lives. By treating them affirmatively, by looking at
their strengths, we can build their feelings of self-worth to the point where
they are more likely to take the steps they need to in terms of behavior change
to be healthy.”
“I’m optimistic that we can continue to reduce infant mortality,” Hall said.
Along with the challenges that clients bring to the Center, the majority also
brings a spirit of resiliency and determination.