Maternal Infant & Child Health Program
The Family Health Center of Battle Creek’s new Maternal Infant & Child Health Program aims to lessen infant mortality rates, enhance pregnancy experiences, and address childhood health issues in Calhoun County. The program is serious about giving voice to women about what they want and need to improve health outcomes for themselves, their babies, and their growing children.
Michigan Nightlight: In your view, what makes this program innovative, effective or remarkable?
Family Heath Center of Battle Creek Maternal Infant & Child Health Program Director Jill Wise
: We are developing a new model of care for women and children that not only takes improvement of their health into account, but also their personal opinions and ideas on how to meet program goals.
To be able reach these goals, we’ll be incorporating some evidence-based programming, like group prenatal visits at the center and home visits for our patients, as well as some customized programming based on what women in our community want and need.
The Maternal Infant & Child Health Program is community-based and well coordinated with health providers, human services agencies, and local women of childbearing age from Battle Creek. The community work group that we have established gives us their input on implementing that model.
...we need women of childbearing age to share what they want. We need to know what types of support they need during their pregnancies and birth experiences.
One of the things that makes this program special is that we engage these women. We really value their feedback -- through the focus groups and an online survey, among other things -- because we need women of childbearing age to share what they want. We need to know what types of support they need during their pregnancies and birth experiences.
What was the best lesson learned in the past year?
It is early in the grant [that funds the program], but we have already learned several valuable things. One of them is that our community’s health providers and human service agencies are very committed to a more coordinated, integrated approach to this type of care.
We know now that women know just what kind of pregnancy care they want; they are very willing to share their expectations and previous experiences. We are still learning a lot about that from the community work group.
What was the hardest lesson learned in the past year?
I realize that there are no easy solutions to some of our greatest challenges, such as increasing immunizations rates. That takes a considerable amount of time and hard work.
But the Family Health Center is exploring new approaches to address childhood health issues, including immunizations, and also asthma, and dental health, and more. We are asking parents what new types of support they need so that we can begin to identify barriers and improve in each of these areas.
Again, it’s early, but community leadership absolutely must convene around these issues and provide support for the work, developing this new model through researching new approaches and piloting fresh ideas. The Family Health Center has stepped up to provide some of that leadership.
What really differentiates this program?
The Maternal Infant & Child Health Program is a collective, collaborative approach to developing the future pattern of care: a
...we are aggressively addressing the local OB/GYN physician shortage through this work.
model that includes input and participation from healthcare providers, human service agencies, and women in the community.
We have a ways to go. However, I’m very confident that the outcome will be an increased level of care that includes the evidence-based approaches we are uncovering balanced with the desires and needs of the people we serve.
What are the keys to success for your program?
For one thing, we are aggressively addressing the local OB/GYN physician shortage through this work.
The Family Health Center is developing a midwifery program, which is not innovative for our community, but which has not been in place for several years. Our key to success in that arena will be forming ways, as we work, to address the shortage that Battle Creek has been dealing with, off and on, since 2004.
Another key is our continuing partnerships with individuals and agencies across the community. Based on what we already know, we are going to need increased clinical space and collaborative community space to continue our work.
That is in the planning stages right now as a major part of our upcoming facility expansion [a project with a price tag exceeding $7 million]. The center is now planning a new OB/GYN facility, with more treatment rooms, office space and extended hours, so that there will be even more services under one roof. That, to me, is a very exciting development.
Why is the need great enough in Calhoun County for you to have developed and implemented The Maternal Infant & Child Health Program?
Our county has the second highest infant mortality rate in Michigan, according to governmental statistics, and black infants have the highest death rate in the state. Calhoun County’s children also have a very low immunization rate and a high rate of untreated tooth decay. And, as I mentioned, there is inadequate access to OB/GYN services in Battle Creek. We need to improve women’s health, their birth outcomes, and the health of our children.