At Swope Health Services’ Healthy Start Initiative, every day is Mother’s Day.
The program, operating at SHS Central and Wyandotte, is where pregnant women and moms can find support for just about any need. About 80 women are now enrolled.
Healthy Start is a federal program, offered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) department of the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, to support healthy pregnancy and early childhood.
Kansas City Healthy Start supports eligible women from certain zip codes in Jackson (MO) and Wyandotte (KS) counties where infant mortality rates are higher than average.
The free program helps pregnant women and women with children under the age of 2 get information and services they need to have a healthy pregnancy, raise a healthy family, and keep themselves healthy and strong.
After enrolling, each participant is assigned a community health worker. Each program starts with an exploration, said Ahkeya Howard, SHS Lead Community Health Worker and a licensed clinical social worker.
“We talk about your needs,” Ahkeya said. “We ask questions and provide support. We are here for you.”
That support can be personal – encouragement, advocacy, listening and training. It can also be tangible items, like diapers (provided by Happy Bottoms), baby cribs and car seats.
For example, when mothers complete Safe Sleep Training provided by community health workers and Infant Loss Resources, they are eligible to receive a free portable playpen/napper.
Each participant is encouraged to set goals, which can also range from personal (practicing better coping skills or relationship building) to professional (enrolling in training, getting a degree or finding a job).
If needed, the support extends to finding housing, transportation, food and signing up for other benefits like health insurance.
Participants typically visit the program once a month, and the goals are re-examined and reset every six months. The program, typically covering the span from a child’s birth until age 2, focuses on key topics of relationships, education, employment, health, mental health, basic essentials and child development.
“It’s important to think about the future, about what will be best for your child,” Ahkeya said. “We’re your cheerleaders and we want to see you succeed.”
This month, the “cheerleaders” organized a special drawing for two baskets filled with treats designed to pamper new moms. All the items were donated by associates in WIC and Healthy Start, and all visitors to either program in the month of May were entered into the drawing.
“There’s something to celebrate every day,” Ahkeya said. “Happy moms and healthy babies are our favorite reasons.”
To learn more about the Healthy Start Initiative, ask your SHS OB-GYN or pediatric provider or talk with Ahkeya Howard at SHS Central or by phone at (816) 599-5791.