The Healthy Start program at UNC Pembroke has been awarded a five-year, $5.4 million grant.
Since 1999, Healthy Start has been using federal funds to decrease infant mortality and improve birth and family health outcomes in Robeson County.
“We are thrilled. We are so excited to be able to continue the work we started in this community in the last grant cycle and really grow it going forward,” said Erica Little, program director.
Healthy Start CORPS is a case management and community intervention program funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau.
Until recently, Robeson County was home to two Healthy Start programs at UNCP and Robeson Health Care Corporation. In the new grant cycle, the two programs will be consolidated and administered by UNCP, and renamed Healthy Start Robeson.
“UNCP is the lead agency,” Little said. “We will be partnering with Robeson Health Care, Southeastern Health and the Robeson County Health Department.”
The goals of Healthy Start are to decrease the rate of low-birth weight babies; increase prenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy; decrease birth rates for teens; increase immunization rates of children up to age three; decrease premature births; and improve care and outcomes following the birth of a baby.
UNCP and its partners assist moms and their children from the gestational stages of growth and development up to 18 months. They are also required to serve 100 fathers.
The county’s infant mortality rate for 2017 was 14 percent, double the state average. The rate fell two years in a row from 2014 to 2015 and again in 2015 to 2016, but Little said they saw an increase after the two devastating hurricanes Matthew and Florence.
“We saw a lot of our moms in stressful situations, going into early labor. That really impacted our infant mortality rate, causing it to jump in 2017,” she said.
Little said her office will continue providing case management to families through home visitations. Case workers offer health education programs through various classes and community partnerships.
UNCP students are eligible for services. Healthy Start partners with the Social Work and Health Promotion departments as a site for their interns. Healthy Start staff also partners with the Nursing Department to provide a pregnancy health fair and often speaks to nursing students about pregnancy, pediatric care and breastfeeding.