By Piia Hanson
Program Manager, Women’s and Infant Health, AMCHP
Projects supported by the Title V MCH Block Grant include a wide range of MCH programs that meet national, state and territorial needs. Many of these programs attribute their success to strong partnerships with local, state and national organizations that also work to ensure the health of our nation’s mothers and children. One such MCH champion is the National Healthy Start Association (NHSA) that has a mission to ‘be our nation’s voice in providing leadership and advocacy for health equity, services and interventions that improve birth outcomes and family well-being.’ The South Phoenix Healthy Start and its Title V partner are an exemplary model for how Title V and Healthy Start work together. We asked Lisa L. Derrick, M.Ed., BAM, project director for South Phoenix Healthy Start (SPHS) at the Maricopa County Department of Public Health Office of Family Health Services, and Antoinette (Toni) Means, MBA/HCM, chief, Office of Women’s Health, Bureau of Women’s and Children’s Health (BWCH) at the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) to offer insight on their successful partnership.
How did your Healthy Start and Title V partnership come together?
BWCH has had an active partnership with SPHS since its inception. The health disparities impacting women and children residing in South Phoenix has been a major focus of both the state and county health departments due to long-term health and social/economic factors impacting this community. This long-term partnership is valued and its continuation has been ensured during their tenure with their respective agencies.
Toni also was instrumental in the founding of the initial Healthy Start (HS) project in Phoenix, AZ more than 10 years ago and served in an advisory capacity for our Community Consortium and even as an informal mentor for Lisa during her first few years as a project director.
What projects are you currently working on together?
BWCH administers a community health worker/promotora home visiting program for pregnant and parenting women and over the years, SPHS and BWCH have opened up various training/educational opportunities to the community health workers of both programs. Topics of recent trainings/conferences have included preconception health, motivational interviewing, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder screening and brief intervention. Routinely, BWCH staff attends the community consortium meetings.
Preconception and interconception health have been a priority for SPHS and BWCH for a number of years. Toni was on the SPHS Interconception Care Learning Community and contributed to the development of the SPHS Interconception Curriculum. In addition, she was one of several learning community members who then presented some of the curriculum modules to the SPHS community health workers. SPHS served on the ADHS Preconception Health Strategic Planning Task Force and is now a member of the Preconception Health Implementation Task Force. Members of the Preconception Health Implementation Task Force work toward achieving the three goals of the Preconception Health Strategic Plan, report on their agency preconception health activities and share resources.
Additionally, SPHS is working to share the vision of Healthy Start 3.0 with their collective community and has recently elicited responses on developing a collective vision from the perspective of the HS community, consumers, staff and other key stakeholders within the HS community. BWCH will join other consortia leaders in the near future for additional work as we move forward in actualizing a new model for Healthy Start.
What other agencies have been engaged in supporting your work?
- Father Matters, a program designed to educate young men about their roles and responsibilities as fathers and provides information about legal, parenting and relationship issues
- Family Tree an organization that educates African Americans, police agencies and policymakers about the impact of domestic violence in the African- American community and the provision of culturally appropriate responses to domestic violence situations
- Facts of Life who works with young ladies living in public housing to increase their educational success by providing youth development services
Additionally, various faith-based organizations and members have participated in building our strategic futures and have been instrumental in educating their parishioners on critical MCH issues and health interventions.
Why was this partnership important to your community?
As SPHS and BWCH work together to leverage resources, the women and children in the community benefit from receiving relevant and timely information and services. Sharing BWCH program updates, statistics and new initiatives during consortium meetings allows the BWCH to reach and work with other organizations in the community and allows the community to provide input to the BWCH.
BWCH has provided excellent leadership in statewide MCH and has provided countless resources in the work done together to improving birth outcomes – their public health expertise, resources for data-media-education materials, active participation in our annual strategic planning and a leading member of the consortium.
The Healthy Start model provides a critical resource to the BWCH…that strong, trusted relationship directly to the community we all serve. One of the strongest components of the HS model is the Community Consortia, the Arizona consortia is older than the actual delivery of home visitation services. With the active participation of the full community and consumer base, the consortium has been building partnerships and working on distributing consistent public health messaging on perinatal health throughout the years.
HS provided BWCH with valuable qualitative, anecdotal data of educational programs and projects at work in the communities – linking families directly to public health officials through the consortia and their involvement in other HS activities helps to strengthen consistent messaging and serves as a sounding board and feedback mechanism for media, education and awareness initiatives that benefit women and families throughout the state.
BWCH at the HS table has resulted in critical strategic connections with community partners who have in turn provided valuable resources and networks that can be perpetuated throughout the state.
How has working together helped you to move forward with improving birth outcomes in Arizona?
Since BWCH and SPHS work to reduce and eliminate health and social factors that place women at higher risk of poor birth outcomes, the more we join together to ensure that all the women served have access to quality, relationship-based services, the greater the opportunities for improving birth outcomes in our state. As we become aware of, share and embrace effective strategies for improving the health of women, Arizona will continue to have a positive impact on the outcomes of future pregnancies.
What future projects can we look forward to hearing about from the South Phoenix Healthy Start and Title V partnership?
Considerable work still needs to be done in order to increase awareness of preconception health and increase access to preconception heath services. They will likley partner on the launch and implementation of the upcoming preconception health social marketing campaign in Arizona. In addition, they will work to ensure the social determinants of health impacting the health and lives of pregnant and parenting women and their families are addressed by developing new collaborative relationships with non-traditional partners, such as employment training and placement agencies. Each entity is open to partnering on diverse efforts that will improve the health and well-being of the women served.
What advice can you offer to other members who want to establish a Healthy Start and Title V partnership?
Since the mission and vision of the Title V agency and Healthy Start projects complement each other in terms of improving the health of women and children, partnering is a natural linkage that results in mutually beneficial and far-reaching advantages for everyone involved. It is critical to work together consciously to align with a shared vision of a healthy Arizona for all Arizonans and to continue to engage all the communities of Arizona in building their knowledge base, leveraging the assets and resources they need to support their families and encouraging opportunities for celebrating their successes in becoming healthier and sharing this success throughout our state. There are a number of opportunities to work together; staff training, community forums, task forces/consortiums, etc. It is important that the Title V and the Healthy Start representatives meet on a regular basis to identify how resources can be leveraged and opportunities for collaboration and success seized.