UH Moment

UH Moment: Healthy Start Initiative Protecting Mothers and Babies

“Most people don’t realize that in the U.S. we have the highest rate of maternal death and illness that is pregnancy-related, and we also have very high infant mortality rates.”

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May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month, but keeping mothers and babies mentally and physically healthy during and beyond pregnancy is an everyday effort for McClain Sampson associate professor at the UH Graduate College of Social Work and director of the Healthy Start Initiative.

Funded by U.S. Health Resources and Services, Healthy Start provides community-based and family-centered services and health education to residents in the 10 Houston-area ZIP codes with the highest rates of death and complications surrounding birth. In some areas of Harris County, rates are nearly five times the national average, with black women and their babies at the greatest risk.

"Most people don't realize that in the U.S. we have the highest rate of maternal death and illness that is pregnancy-related, and we also have very high infant mortality rates," said Sampson. "We do community outreach and education and home visits. We try to engage mothers, and their infants, and also fathers so we can help increase the level of awareness and engagement into the health care system."

The Healthy Start Initiative is the largest program in Houston designed to explicitly address these longstanding perinatal health disparities. While the services are available to any woman who is pregnant or has just given birth, regardless of race or socio-economic
 status, the initiative targets black women, their partners, teenagers, infants and their families to promote preconception care, early prenatal care, longer intervals between pregnancies, fatherhood involvement and behaviors that can reduce risk.

"A lot of times you just need people to work with that provide a safe and trusting environment, that's what Healthy Start does," added Sampson. Follow Healthy Start or learn more here:

Facebook: @healthystartinitiativeuh (Healthy Start at UH)

Instagram: @healthystartuh

Twitter: @htxheathystart

Phone: 713-743-5500 Email: hsi@central.uh.edu

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