Children born underweight face huge developmental challenges with lifelong consequences for them, their families, and their communities. The March of Dimes estimates the societal cost of low birthweight babies at an estimated $26 billion annually nationwide. In York City, 11.5 percent of babies born in 2012 were low birth weight, weighing less than five pounds, eight ounces, compared to only eight percent of babies born in York County.
Through a $525,000 multi-year grant from the Memorial Health Fund, Family First Health, a federally qualified community health center, offers a free community outreach program for expectant mothers in York City to help ensure a healthy pregnancy and increase chances of delivering a full-term, healthy-weight baby.
The Connections for a Healthy Pregnancy program hired four community health workers (CHW) from York City neighborhoods who underwent special training to connect the mothers with services to help them in their pregnancy. The CHWs meet with expectant mothers during a prenatal visit at local healthcare providers, and then continue to check in on a regular basis through home visits and by phone to discuss needs, provide peer support, and connect the mothers with local community resources.
The most pressing concern for mothers in the program is safe and affordable housing. The CHWs help the mothers identify options that are available in their budget, but this dire need has drawn attention to the scarcity of housing resources in York City. Many families also need transportation resources to reach their medical appointments, so the CHWs help the mothers complete applications for transportation assistance and identify other transportation resources.
The Connections program grant is just one example of how the Memorial Health Fund supports innovative solutions to healthcare challenges facing York County.