Harris Health System campaign aims to reduce pregnancy-related complications in African-Americans

African-American women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications and about twice as likely to suffer a miscarriage than other ethnic groups in Harris County. The alarming facts prompted Harris Health System to launch an educational campaign aimed at African-American women before they get pregnant on the steps to have a safe and healthy birth.

The program, Women with Impact, focuses on improving the physical and psychological health of women before or between pregnancies to reduce preterm births and infant mortality rates. In Harris County, black women have the highest pre-term delivery rates at 17.5 percent. Preterm births are infants born before week 37. Black women also have one of the lowest rates, 46.8 percent, for receiving prenatal care compared to white women with a rate of 66.6 percent.

"This is one way we're giving back to the community," says Dr. Margo Hilliard, MPH, senior vice president, Community Services, Harris Health System. "Harris County has a wealth of healthcare resources and mothers have the right to be informed and educated in a way that positively affects their health and the health of their babies."

Women with Impact is a component of the health system's Impacting Maternal and Prenatal Care Together (IMPACT) Collaborative, a united effort of 339 individuals and 79 member organizations from greater Houston/Harris County. IMPACT brings together community resources, raises public awareness, focuses on quality of care measures and supports legislative advocacy to improve maternity care and birth outcomes in Harris County.

Women with Impact began in March by offering workshops to women in targeted, underserved areas of Houston. The workshops target the major factors affecting a successful birth and recovery:
• Pregnancy and conception
• Stress
• Physical activity
• Nutrition
• Infection
• Sources of smoke in the home
• Substance abuse

The program targets women between the ages of 18-35 who live in Houston's predominately African-American communities of Sunnyside, Third Ward, Settegast and Fifth Ward. Among its goals is to have women:
• Increase weekly physical activity by 20 percent
• Increase daily fruit/vegetable intake by 20 percent
• Maintain a smoke-free home and/or decrease tobacco use by 50 percent
• Decrease alcohol use to the recommended level
• Begin taking a multivitamin every day
• Incorporate one positive coping skill daily to reduce stress
• Improve biometric measurements

"We're thrilled to be a part of a project that is making such a difference in the lives of women and our community's tiniest members," says Debbie Boswell, program director, Community Outreach Services, Harris Health System. "We look forward to extending our reach to help even more women over the next year."
 
Source: Harris Health System

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