Chester County, Pa., Healthy Start Program Serving Mostly Hispanic, Black Pregnant Women
The Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday profiled the Chester County, Pa., Healthy Start Program, which provides low-income pregnant women with prenatal and postpartum care services. In 2007, the program, which is offered by the Maternal and Child Health Consortium of Chester County, provided assistance to about 1,200 women, most of whom were black and Hispanic.
Healthy Start is made up of a consortium of 30 women, most of whom are bilingual and bicultural, who serve as health care advocates. The program offers referrals to prenatal care providers, assistance with obtaining health insurance, no-cost transportation to appointments and medical interpretation services. About 1,400 women and children have enrolled in health insurance with help from the program, according to its Web site. Additionally, 98% of the infants born to women in the program had healthy birthweights.
The organization also provides screenings for depression, counseling and other health services in English and Spanish. After childbirth, the advocates continue to monitor the health of both the mother and infant for two years, including home visits, in some cases. In the event that clients need additional help after two years, the consortium also has a family center that serves families with children ages two to five. The program also operates professional training programs to educate providers in the county about cross-cultural health issues and to train interpreters.
According to the Inquirer, a "big problem" for Health Start officials "is ensuring that women are aware of their services." To increase awareness, organizers created an extensive outreach campaign that includes distributing informational materials and working with community leaders who can refer women to the program.
Neydary Zambrano, Healthy Start's program director, said, "Health care (and social service) systems are not easily accessible or understood, especially when there are language and culture barriers." She said, "We try to serve as a link between these women and the community," adding, "A lot of women are isolated in the community because of financial, cultural or language barriers, among other things. So we offer them our support" (Kamen, Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/25).