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The mission of Palmetto Healthy Start is to reduce infant deaths, to improve the health system for pregnant women and their families by increasing access to care, and to reduce racial disparities in health outcomes. We deliver our services through a community-based approach and challenge communities to address the medical, behavioral and psychosocial needs of women and infants by:
- Increasing awareness of the causes of and solutions for infant mortality;
- Building partnerships of commitment among families, volunteers, businesses, health care professionals and social services providers; and
- Coordinating services between public and private agencies.
Did you know?
- According to the United Nations, the United States ranks 32nd out of all countries in the world in infant mortality rates even though it spends more than any other country on health care per person.
- Compared to white women, African-American women are twice as likely to have a baby born with low birth-weight.
- Every year, nearly one million American women deliver babies without receiving adequate medical attention.
- Babies born to mothers who received no prenatal care are three times more likely to be born at low birth-weight, and five times more likely to die, than those whose mothers received prenatal care.
- African-American and Hispanic women are more likely to begin care late in pregnancy or deliver with no prenatal care at all.
To improve this situation, the US Department of Health and Human Services has funded more than 100 local Healthy Start projects nationwide since 1991 in high-risk areas to reduce infant mortality rates and promote healthy outcomes for young women and their families. Palmetto Healthy Start (PHS) has two of the five local grants funded in South Carolina. The goal of the national Healthy Start program is to reduce the number of babies born with health problems.
Palmetto Healthy Start first received funding in late 1997 to provide essential pre- and postnatal services to women, infants, children and families in selected Richland County zip codes. These zip codes, known as "service areas," were targeted because they had higher than average rates of infant deaths as well as babies who are born underweight. Since its inception, Palmetto Healthy Start has improved prenatal care and birth outcomes, and reduced infant mortality among program participants.
Because of its success, Palmetto Healthy Start received additional federal funding in 2001 to continue providing services for at least five more years and expand those services to cover residents in Richland, Fairfield and Lexington counties. The staff has extensive experience working with communities, and has used programs and services that are culturally sensitive and appropriate. Palmetto Healthy Start's strategies are aimed at improving health outcomes and eliminating racial health disparities through case management, outreach and recruitment, health education and training, community coalition development, and a local health systems action plan.
In August 2002, Palmetto Healthy Start merged with Bright Futures, another Palmetto Health program focusing on prenatal services for women and infants. As a result of the merger, Palmetto Healthy Start now offers childbirth education classes. The classes cover labor and delivery, newborn care and infant CPR.
In June 2010, Palmetto Healthy Start received an additional grant expanding services into Lexington and Sumter counties. Palmetto Healthy Start now offers services to pregnant women and infants in Richland, Fairfield, Lexington and Sumter counties.
Palmetto Healthy Start has taken great strides in enhancing the community's service system for pregnant women and their infants. Among our successes, we have been able to:
- Increase the number of participants served through our program in every year from 1998–2011. In 2011, we served 2,254 women and 1, 063 infants.
- Reduce rates of low birth-weight for Palmetto Healthy Start participants. In 2011, only 12.2% of Palmetto Healthy Start infants were low birth-weight babies, far less than the rate of African Americans in South Carolina (14.9%).
- Reduce infant mortality rates among Palmetto Healthy Start participants. According to Palmetto Healthy Start's 2011 data, the infant mortality rate for Palmetto Healthy Start participants was 6.8 per 1,000 live births, compared to the overall rate of 11.8 for African Americans in South Carolina.