UH Houston Healthy Start 2019 New Project

University of Houston Healthy Start Initiative Entered the Healthy Start Family in 2019

The University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work is the grantee for the Healthy Start project in Houston. Led by Associate Professor, Dr. McClain Sampson, the UH Healthy Start Initiative is the largest program in Houston designed to explicitly address these longstanding perinatal health disparities. “By effectively implementing this program, the staff and I can work directly toward racial justice for expectant and pregnant mothers in Houston, TX, and Harris County,” said Dr. Sampson.

According to an article on the UH website, “…many communities in Houston experience significantly higher infant and maternal death rates. In some areas of Harris County, rates are nearly five times the national average, with black women and their babies at the greatest risk.” The UH Healthy Start Initiative “…provide[s] 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. That includes Houston’s Third Ward.”

Continues the article by Chris Sipes, which announced the receipt of the grant award from HRSA, “…the initiative will target 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…Houston’s vast urban landscape and rapid growth present challenges for low-income residents, many of whom live in neighborhoods without convenient access to medical care. Demand for primary care has outpaced supply in many areas across Houston.”

Eulalia Gillum, LMSW, is the Program Manager for the UH Healthy Start Initiative. Gillum has a history of working with Healthy Start, as she previously was the Project Director of the Healthy Start program in Dallas, TX. Said Gillum, “My experience serving with Healthy Start projects in both Dallas County/Dallas, TX and previously Harris County/Houston, TX, led me to want to be involved in the University of Houston Healthy Start project. I am humbled to have this opportunity to return to serving in the Maternal and Child Health arena, as well as the Healthy Start Family. This work – maternal and child health – must be something that’s in your heart. You must be passionate about making a difference in the lives of those who are most vulnerable – our babies.”

The UH Houston Healthy Start project “…aims to reach 600 mothers and 100 fathers each year for the next five years,” continues the UH article. “To help the parents navigate a fragmented healthcare system, case managers and community health workers will canvas neighborhoods to connect women with health insurance, transportation and timely, continuous and regular primary and preventive care at integrated health clinics, including the newly opened federally qualified health center on the UH campus… Health education programs will provide families with information about managing stress and mental health, nutrition, sleep, sexual health and more. Sampson will also train doctors and nurses on implicit bias, or the idea that attitudes and stereotypes can unconsciously affect actions and decision-making.”

“Research shows that implicit bias does occur in the health care setting,” Sampson said. “Claims made to a provider by low-income minority patients, for example, can be dismissed more readily than those from a patient with more resources. The actions may be unconscious, but it needs to be addressed to achieve equity.”

“Started in 1991, the HRSA Healthy Start initiative currently funds 100 projects nationwide to improve the health of America’s mothers and children before, during and beyond pregnancy. This is the first Healthy Start program in Houston since 2014.”

Gillum brings her history and past involvement with Healthy Start with her. “As a past board member of the National Healthy Start Association, I am aware of the importance of its existence to the entire National Healthy Start Community. NHSA provides invaluable support to existing Healthy Start program, through its Fatherhood support initiatives, as well as its Technical Assistance Center.”

Permission was granted by Eulalia Gillum to use information and quotations from the article on the US Graduate School of Social Work website: “$4.9 Million Initiative Addresses Racial Disparities in Maternal, Infant Mortality,” April 10, 2019.

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