Research has shown that home visiting programs can improve health outcomes for low-income mothers and their babies. Through these initiatives, public health nurses and health education assistants make home visits for pregnant women and new moms to ensure families receive the services they need to have a safe pregnancy and healthy babies. In addition to perinatal care, services include health education, referrals to other healthcare providers or services, as well as assistance in securing childcare, health insurance, food, and housing.
RDA has had the privilege of working with one such program, Fresno Babies First, since 2006. Over the last decade, we have worked with the Division of Maternal Child and Adolescent Health at Fresno County’s Department of Public Health Nursing (PHN) to provide evaluation, quality improvement, and technical assistance services.
Through this project, we learned about the important role Babies First plays in meeting the needs of some of the Central Valley’s most vulnerable populations. The clients of the Babies First initiative include many women who have traditionally been skeptical of public systems, including undocumented immigrants, homeless, and those who have had or are at risk of child protective services involvement. Babies First nurses develop trusting relationships with these women and their children while safely connecting them to much needed health care.
Despite the proven success of home visiting programs, they are often the target of funding cuts. In fact, earlier this month, Congress let the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program’s funding expire. While Fresno Babies First is funded by a separate grant, the MIECHV was a substantial source of funding for home visiting programs, having funded visits for over 160,000 parents and children in all 50 states in 2016. The decision to let these critical funds expire shows could dramatically impact the health and well-being of mothers and their children across the country.
Fresno Babies First and other home visiting programs across California are vital for improving the health and well-being of low-income mothers and their children across the country. We have seen first-hand the effectiveness of Fresno Babies First through our evaluation efforts. Throughout our partnership, we have seen Fresno PHN embrace data-driven decision-making to monitor program outcomes, identify strengths and challenges, and improve service delivery. Through it all, they have remained focused on their top priority, improving health and birth outcomes for low-income women in Fresno County.