BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Given Southeast Queens’ current nine percent infant mortality rate – the death of babies in the first year of life – in addition to its high poverty level and high rate of teen pregnancy, the neighborhood was able to meet the strict criteria necessary to bring the Public Health Solution’s Jamaica-Southeast Queens Healthy Start (J/SQHS) program to the community.
J/SQHS partnered with Healthy Families, Nurse-Family Partnership Jamaica, and the Queens Comprehensive Perinatal Council’s Case Management Program in an effort to work towards eliminating disparities in perinatal health in Jamaica. Completely free of charge, J/SQHS accepts referrals of all pregnant and newly parenting women through a centralized screening process, matching them to the home visiting program that best meets their needs and preferences.
“Our overall goal is to improve birth outcomes within the community,” said Poulette Brewster, program manager at J/SQHS. “We’re in the business of saving moms and babies.”
Although Southeast Queens has the fourth highest infant mortality rate in New York City, compared to being the highest last year, Brewster said it’s still not nearly as good as it should be.
Through this program, trained and certified home visitors meet and work with pregnant women as young as 15-years-old, as a means of support. Home visitors and case management models spend time assessing possible risks for both the baby and the mother, whether it is intimate partner violence or other issues that can affect the stability of the family.
“The best time to impact the lives of our children is at the beginning, during pregnancy,” said Brewster.
Not only does the program provide support and home visiting during the pregnancy but they continue to assess the mother up to two years following the birth, not including the fact that several families maintain relationship with their home visitors even after the professional relationship comes to an end.
Brewster said working in the J/SQHS program is not just her nine-to-five job. “It’s personal,” she said. “I live in this area and all I want is for my community to thrive and be the best that it can be. It all starts with infants, and having better outcomes for children.”
In addition to caring for the mother and the child, J/SQHS encourages fathers to get involved and to be present during home visits.
The program was funded in September 2014 and will be in effect for another two years. However, Public Health Solutions hopes to expand the program to other areas because of the referrals they are receiving from women that don’t live in the Southeast Queens community.
The majority of the women being served are in their early 20s, are immigrants or are non-native speakers. There is no discrimination towards who is served.
Public Health Solutions is one of the largest public health service nonprofit organizations in New York City, and is dedicated to improving health among the city’s most vulnerable populations by tackling social, physical, and environmental factors that impact New Yorkers’ ability to thrive.
J/SQHS is located at 90-04 161st Street, suite 207. For more information, call 718-704-5078.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org