In 2017, the UN reported that the US was one of the two countries where mortality rates among new mothers rose, making us the only industrialized country in this position. A maternal and child health program can greatly improve pregnancy outcomes by helping women of all ages access preventive and curative healthcare. And community health workers are the perfect bridge between women and healthcare providers: They’re equipped to advocate, educate, and encourage the habits that ultimately lead to successful pregnancy and delivery. With this in mind, we’re covering two ways CHW programs can impact pregnant women and families:
bridging gaps in care for women and mothers
Many studies have been conducted regarding the social determinants of health and their impact on pregnancy. In the US, Black women face the brunt with the highest risk of pregnancy-related death at 37.1 out of every 100,000 live births.
In contrast, the maternal death ratio, as we know this rate, is 14.7 out of every 100,000 live births among white women. And 11.8 out of 100,000 live births for Hispanic women, according to the Commonwealth Fund. The contrast between groups is stark and raises the need to address inequities at their root.
Maternal and child health starts with women’s adequate access to healthcare. Aspects like nutrition and physical activity, drug use, and chronic disease management can greatly impact pregnancy success.
Your CHW team can effectively connect women and families to your maternal and child health program and improve access to healthcare and monitoring. Thus reducing the gaps in care and improving health outcomes. Community health workers can also provide valuable education about insurance basics and connect patients with specialists to address concerns and get timely treatment. Additionally, CHWs in a maternal and child health program can specialize in service navigation for programs such as WIC.
Promoting Family Planning and Wellness
The World Health Organization defines family planning as “the ability of individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children and the spacing and timing of their births. It is achieved through use of contraceptive methods and the treatment of involuntary infertility.”
Family planning is an important part of basic maternal and child health care that affects this and future generations. The term “family planning” refers to various goods and services designed to promote reproductive health and help people plan, space, and control how many children they wish to have. Family planning has well-documented benefits for mothers, babies, families, and communities. The ability to plan and space births can have lasting impacts on the social and economic well-being of women and their families.
Family planning prevents unintended pregnancy, reduces the transmission of STDs, and helps decrease infertility rates. Informed family planning can also help individuals get access to education and break the poverty cycle.
Additionally, planned pregnancies are healthier for mothers and babies. Plus, they reduce health care costs for everyone. Newborns from unintended pregnancies are more likely to be born with low birth weight and before they are due, which puts them at higher risk of infant mortality. Breastfeeding, which provides many benefits, including reducing childhood illnesses and chronic diseases, is also less likely among unplanned babies.
CHWs play an important role in helping people understand how important family planning is to their overall well-being. Focusing on this, your team can give someone the tools to make an informed decision and change a family’s legacy.
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Essential Training for CHWs in a maternal and child health program
The first step in building a team of CHWs to support a maternal and child health program includes training. Specifically, they should begin with knowledge of:
- Advocacy skills – connecting patients to the services they need and educating entities and organizations about the issues a community is facing
- Cultural competency – understanding the nuances of cultural sensitivities and how they may impact healthcare, especially regarding maternity and early childhood
- Health Literacy – or the ability to understand and replicate basic health concepts as they relate to the patient and their care
- Interpersonal Skills OR Motivational Interviewing – the use of verbal and nonverbal communication and interpreting social contexts to build rapport
- Family Planning and Wellness – such as providing basic family planning counseling to support the health of communities
- Providing Social Support – establishing trust and helping clients understand their needs and overcome barriers
To explore the core skills or competencies of CHWs, visit 12 Skills To Build a CHW Career.
For more specialized training, then you can focus on upskilling your CHW team to learn:
- Healthy Pregnancy and Healthy Postpartum – including an overview of nutrition, exercise, and general maternal and child health care
- Breastfeeding Basics – such as resources and education for exclusive breastfeeding (EB) and early breastfeeding initiation (EBI)
- Perinatal Mental Health – including mood disorders among pregnant women, including anxiety and depression
- Trauma-Informed Care – such as mindfully supporting women and families who have a history of trauma*
Are You Interested in Launching A Maternal and Child Health Program? Get in Touch
At CHWTraining, we provide off-the-shelf training for community health workers. We also develop bespoke learning paths for organizations looking to expand their services or specialize in a career path. So, if you want to learn more about these services and how we can work with you, book a consultation.
Core Competencies for CHWs
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*To learn more about trauma-informed care, visit these resources: