Laura Charles-Horne is the Director of Home Visiting and Healthy Start Project Director at Mary’s Center in Washington, DC.
At 8 deaths per thousand, the women, children, and families in the District are experiencing healthier outcomes from the very start and making strides in closing the gap to the national average at 6.1. This is great news for our community as we have struggled for years to make a real impact on improving the health of our most vulnerable members. The infant mortality rate is the best-known indicator of a community’s health status. The measure is used nationally and internationally to compare the health outcomes of jurisdictions and communities. This news is especially wonderful and timely as we close National Minority Health Month – having accomplished the greatest declines among minority populations with 28% decline for non-Hispanic black mothers and 53.8% decline for Hispanic mothers from last year.
Mohammad Akhter, director of the District’s Health Department, cited “long-term investments in support programs for vulnerable mothers and children” as the cause of the decline. Mary’s Center, founded twenty-four years ago with the mission of providing high-quality prenatal care for under-served populations, is pleased by this indication of the success of its comprehensive services. Our city-wide home visiting program, Healthy Start Healthy Families (HSHF), has provided home-based support to pregnant and new parenting families since 1995 to improve birth and childhood outcomes. HSHF demonstrates a combined effort of the national Healthy Families America home visiting model, a national movement to prevent child abuse and neglect, and the federal Healthy Start program, an initiative to reduce infant mortality. The mission of HSHF is to partner with families to ensure that children are healthy, safe, and ready for school through home visitation and linkages with community resources. These results are an example of our sustained work and commitment to our communities through primary care, education, and outreach. The work we do – access to services, linkages to resources, home visits, family support, outreach, parenting education, health education, case management, and much more…all helped to achieve these outcomes. And for that, I am thankful! While there is still more work to do, I am encouraged that we will continue to close the gap with sustained effort and strong partnerships so that every child gets to celebrate day 366!