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New Support Expands Reach of Strong Beginnings Women and Children's Health Initiative

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., May 19, 2015 – Strong Beginnings, a successful West Michigan community collaborative focused on the health of women and children, has two new grants totaling more than $9 million to grow the program’s outreach to the Latino population in Kent County and expand community-level work.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has committed $4.3 million over five years to improve maternal and child health among Latino families in Kent County through Strong Beginnings’ Familias Fuertes y Saludables.

In addition, the Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded a new federal Healthy Start grant of $4.9 million during the same five-year period to increase Strong Beginnings’ capacity to serve African American women, men and their children.

“Both grants will enhance Strong Beginnings’ ability to promote racial equity, address social determinants of health and improve the overall system of care,” said Ken Fawcett, MD, vice president of Healthier Communities, Spectrum Health.

Dr. Fawcett points to recent successes such as the decrease in infant mortality among African-Americans in Kent County, which has fallen by 32 percent in the past 10 years due in part, he says, to the Strong Beginnings community collaborative.

Strong Beginnings, a federally-funded Healthy Start project, is a collaboration of eight agencies dedicated to improving maternal-child health, and eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in birth outcomes. It provides outreach, case management, education, mental health services and a fatherhood program.

Since its inception in 2005, Strong Beginnings has had a significant impact on improving birth outcomes among the 4,000 families served to date. Recent data shows low-birth weight and infant mortality rates among program participants are half the rate of other African Americans in Grand Rapids. Over the past three years, mothers enrolled in Strong Beginnings have not suffered a single infant loss.

“These outcomes are the result of a community effort involving multiple organizations,” said Dr. Fawcett. “We continue to make improvements, but inequities still exist among African American, Latino and Caucasian populations. We are grateful for the opportunity to expand this program and now offer the Latino community the same support.”

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation support follows a one-year planning grant used to identify factors that contributed to the recent rising rates of infant mortality—twice as high as Caucasians—and extreme prematurity among Latinos, and to develop a model that would best meet the needs of Latino families. Participants will receive culturally and linguistically appropriate services during pregnancy and for two years after delivery.

“This new Strong Beginnings initiative will help meet a growing need in our community,” said Veronica Ouintino, Strong Beginnings Program Manager at Family Futures. “The goal of the initiative is to provide support for Latino families in Kent County thus reducing disparities in birth outcomes and improving health for Latina women. Strong Beginnings will help families navigate community services, addressing social determinants that might be barriers, and provide learning opportunities for families. We will advocate for Latino families and try to eliminate the gaps these families face. Our goal is to promote health equity for Latina women and children.”

The Health Resources and Services Administration grant, in addition to supporting on-going Strong Beginning activities, will expand consumer engagement and provide additional services to male partners.

Spectrum Health is the fiduciary for Strong Beginnings. Other partner organizations are:

·         Arbor Circle

·         Breton Health Center

·         Cherry Health

·         Family Futures

·         Grand Rapids African American Health Institute

·         Healthy Kent Infant Health Team

·         Kent County Health Department

·         Spectrum Health Healthier Community MOMS Program

·         The Salvation Army Booth Clinic

To learn more about Strong Beginnings or to enroll in the program contact the main office at 616.331.5838 or Family Futures for Latina clients at 616.545.4673.

About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. To learn more, visit www.wkkf.orgor follow WKKF on Twitter at @wk_kellogg_fdn.

Spectrum Healthis a not-for-profit health system, based in West Michigan, offering a full continuum of care through the Spectrum Health Hospital Group, which is comprised of 12 hospitals, including Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital; 180 ambulatory and service sites; 1,300 physicians and advanced practice providers, which include 1,100 members of the Spectrum Health Medical Group;and Priority Health, a health plan with more than 600,000 members. Spectrum Health is West Michigan’s largest employer, with 22,500 employees. The organization provided $294.6 million in community benefit during its 2014 fiscal year. Spectrum Health is the only health system in Michigan to be named one of the nation’s 15 Top Health Systems® by Truven Health Analytics for 2015.This is the fourth time the organization has received this recognition.