February 29, 2008

Health project focuses on pregnant women at the border

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

A new coalition of health and social services agencies will try to reduce disparities in perinatal health in selected US/Mexico border communities of San Diego County.

The California Border Healthy Start (CBHS) project, proposed by Project Concern International, will target low-income women and families living within a catchment area of eleven contiguous zip codes that represent the poorest birth outcomes and highest levels of poverty in the County.

“This is a very important project to make sure that we reach those pregnant women who are not being reached and ensure healthy babies and mothers,” said Dr. Maria Lourdes Reyes, project director of California Border Healthy Start.

The goals of the project are to decrease infant mortality; to decrease the percent of low birth weight infants; to increase the percent of pregnant women starting prenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy; and to increase the number of women who complete screening for post partum depression and domestic violence.

The project area is comprised of the following communities: South East San Diego (92113, 92114, 92139), Mid City (92105, 92115, 92116), Central San Diego (92102, 92104), Lemon Grove (91945), Spring Valley (91977), and National City (91950).

All elements of the project have been carefully planned so as to not duplicate the existing services in the area, but rather fill service and system gaps, address the prevailing barrier of mistrust of the health care system among the target population, and maximize utilization of existing perinatal services, Reyes said.

“The project will make every effort to provide culturally appropriate services to women from these areas groups and to link them to other programs that can meet their needs,” Reyes said.

“For example, all women and their children who live in these areas are eligible for project services; however, because these areas are predominantly Latino and because of the existing BIH project, the project will have a Latino focus,” she said.

To address the barriers that affect access to care based on mistrust of and confusion surrounding the health care system, the core services of the proposed CBHS project will highlight use of the community health worker (promotora) model throughout.

Promotoras are identified community leaders who help build “bridges” between the healthcare system, social service programs, and the client and their family to deliver health education and information, provide a supportive and trusting advisory relationship, and liaise between the community and healthcare providers to eliminate cultural and linguistic barriers.

“Promotoras are women of and from the same communities as their clients, able to speak their language, relate to their issues, overcome mistrust issues, and provide continuity of care and sustainability of program outcomes beyond the life of the project,” Reyes said.

As part of the Monthly Educational Circles for Health Professionals and Para-Professionals, which is part of this project, will host the workshop “Understanding Teen Pregnancy,” presented by Dr. Maria Moya, from the Scripps Family Medicine Residence Program. The workshop is this Tuesday, March 4, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.

It will be held at Health and Human Services Agency, Coronado Room, 3851 Rosecrans St., San Diego.

To register for the workshop, call (619) 691-7220.

“I would recommend for the parents to take an active part in their own health advocacy, take charge of their own health and ask all the questions,” Reyes said.

For more information about the California Border Healthy Start (CBHS) project, call Project Concern International at 1.619.791.2610, ext 301 (Lina Mora) or x305 (Dr. Reyes).

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