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Strong Beginnings Wins American Hospital Association Award

Contact: Beth Cranson                                                          
Sue Krieger

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., July 12, 2016– Strong Beginnings, a 10-year-old collaboration among eight community agencies, will receive the prestigious NOVA Award next week for its work to improve maternal and infant health among African Americans and Latinos in Kent County, the American Hospital Association (AHA) has announced.

The award recognizes hospital-led collaborative efforts that improve community health. Strong Beginnings, administered by Spectrum Health, was one of five programs nationwide to receive the award this year.

Through the use of community health workers, Strong Beginnings provides direct assistance to expectant and new mothers and also works to promote racial equity and improve the overall system of care.  Services include outreach, community education, mental health services for clients, a fatherhood component and more. As a result, infant mortality rates among African Americans in Kent County have been cut in half over the last decade.

“We know that poverty, stress, racism, lack of social capital and discrimination are insidious forces that have a negative impact on birth outcomes,” said Ken Fawcett, vice president of Spectrum Health Healthier Communities. “Our Strong Beginnings team makes a difference in the lives of the families it serves and in the lives of the generations that follow.”

Former client Amber Perry recalled that Strong Beginnings offered her much-needed support and companionship. “My community health worker was not only someone I could talk to, she also helped me get baby clothes and a referral for a car seat.”  Last year, Perry became a community health worker in the Strong Beginnings program.

In addition to Spectrum Health, these community agencies comprise the Strong Beginnings team:

  • Arbor Circle
  • Cherry Health
  • Family Futures
  • Grand Rapids African American Health Institute
  • Healthy Kent 2020 Infant Health Team
  • Kent County Health Department
  • Metro Health
  • Michigan State University  

The NOVA Award, which recognizes successful partnerships that reach beyond the four walls of a hospital, will be presented to Strong Beginnings at an AHA leadership summit in San Diego on July 19. Programs in Dallas, Houston, Norfolk and Carrollton (Ga.), also will be recognized.

Spectrum Health is 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; 179 ambulatory and service sites; more than 3,400 physicians and advanced practice providers, including about 1,400 members of the Spectrum Health Medical Group; and Priority Health, a health plan with about 732,000 members. Spectrum Health is West Michigan’s largest employer, with 24,600 employees. The organization provided $283 million in community benefit during its 2015 fiscal year. Spectrum Health was named one of the nation’s 15 Top Health Systems—and in the top five among the largest health systems—by Truven Health Analytics™ for 2016. This is the fifth time the organization has received this recognition. 


Please click here to view an additional press release from the American Hospital Association.