On the first Monday of October, maternal and child health professionals across America observe Child Health Day. On this 83rd annual celebration of Child Health Day, Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center (MTVNHC) reminds residents of maternal and child health programs that help children lead healthy lives everyday. One such program is MTVNHC’s Community Health Worker Program (CWHP). It is one community health program that reaches out from behind the doors of the medical office and into the homes and lives of pregnant women who are at highest risk for infant mortality. “Community Health Workers serve as a bridge to providers of health and community services for pregnant women who are at highest risk for poor birth outcome,” said Olga DeJonge, Director of Women’s Services. “The program’s goal is to assist with ensuring a healthy delivery.”
With a CHWP worker based at each of the Network’s three Health Center sites located in Mt. Vernon, Greenburgh/White Plains and Yonkers, the bridge is built first outwardly from the Health Centers to the surrounding community. The extent of the workers outreach is only as far their feet can take them into their targeted zones. Focusing on areas of the community with high rates of infant mortality, the bilingual team of three walk, talk and hand out health literature weekly seeking out pregnant women who might not otherwise have known help—and prenatal health care—is available. “We walk through neighborhoods; knock on doors, visit food pantries, day care centers, laundry mats, social service offices, you name it. We will go wherever it takes to reach pregnant women who are at highest risk and are not accessing prenatal health care,” said DeJonge.
Asking pregnant women if they are receiving prenatal care often serves as the opening line to discussion with the women. Once a need for assistance is determined, workers waste little time in getting women to health providers and into consistent prenatal care. CHWP workers then turn their attention to the mother’s children under the age of three and assist with gaining access to pediatric care, immunizations, nutritional guidance and developmental monitoring. Workers often meet with the mothers while their at health appointments, providing translation assistance in addition to case management. Weekly appointment reminder calls are made to program clients and missed clinical appointments are noted.
Through regular monthly home visits, the team works to reinforce the health education the mothers receive from their doctors by giving them additional health education training on health topics such as dental hygiene, breastfeeding, infant bathing, domestic violence, family planning and others. Approximately every quarter, the dedicated team brings together their expectant new clients from Greenburgh, Yonkers and Mount Vernon for a community baby shower at the Mount Vernon center. The women are served food, cake and beverages and receive new donated items such as car seats, bath tubs, clothing, toys, bottles and other much needed baby items.
Establishing a professional relationship and partnership with the mothers from the very beginning, they are given a cell phone number by which they can reach their assigned CHWP worker 24 hours a day 7 days a week if needed. “We manage our client’s cases from the moment they enter the Program until all health and social issues identified at the onset, have been addressed. We routinely refer clients to resources involving housing and school such as GED or ESL courses.”
DeJonge identifies the majority of the Program’s client population as undocumented, non-English speaking as well as teenaged mothers. “We stay on course with them through delivery of their baby until about 6 to 8 months afterward. All the while we are working with them we are primarily working to ensure that proper prenatal care under medical supervision remains a constant.” The program has helped over 860 women since its start in 2006.
If you would like more information about Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Centers CHWP Program, contact Christine Burgher, Program Coordinator at (914) 699-7200.