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HLA House Project: Examining the Support Expectant & Postpartum Mothers Need

July 10, 2020

Students in the Health Leadership Apprentice Program, divided into “houses,” work alongside Community-Driven Initiatives to help Central Texas community members address health-related issues. This post is by members of the HLA Purple House: Yasmin Alfurati, Oishika Das, Shelby Griffin, Regan Herron, Sainath Kondapaneni and Sarah Shu. They worked Mommie Support Network for their house project.

Maternal mortality is an issue that disproportionately impacts the state of Texas. Here, there are an estimated 18.5 deaths per 100,000 live births, as opposed to the national average of 17.4 deaths per 100,000 live births. As such, the topic of maternal health is essential for ensuring the well-being of our community.

Many local nonprofits such as our partner, Mommie Support Network, are dedicated to addressing the multitude of issues expectant mothers experience. Mommie Support Network aims to provide assistance and a sense of community for mothers, as well as address mental health obstacles that can come with motherhood, such as postpartum depression.

To enhance maternal health on a local level, Alicea Jones, Mommie Support Network founder and executive director, has expanded the nonprofit in hopes of bridging socioeconomic inequalities and increasing awareness of the realities of being a mother. Ultimately, Jones aims to create social support networks, host annual conferences and bring more awareness to postpartum depression and maternal mortality.

In fall 2019, the Purple House began a project focused on maternal health, Meals for Mommies. Initially, our project served the dual purposes of providing food security and establishing social support for expectant mothers through the form of a Meals on Wheels program.

However, due to COVID-19 and delayed meeting times with Meals on Wheels, we modified the project to accommodate the altered time frame. Instead, the Purple House met with maternal health specialists and doctors to gain a better understanding of maternal health in Texas and the factors that negatively impact it.

Given the lack of data on how to best assist new mothers in Texas, the Purple House shifted its focus toward compiling a list of nonprofits and government programs in Austin focused on alleviating barriers for new mothers. In the following semester, we plan on reaching out to these organizations to gauge whether they need assistance on quality improvement for their ongoing maternal health projects. We also hope to develop a survey that these organizations can disseminate to gather data on the resources expectant mothers need most.

During our showcase, we intended on presenting our research and community resource documents. We recognize that maternal health is complex and can be best addressed by galvanizing a team effort among different maternal health-focused nonprofits.

During our time as members of the Purple House, we have learned how maternal mortality disproportionately affects women with low income. Social and economic drivers of health are often overlooked when analyzing health, but when it comes to maternal health, we understand just how important it is to have access to resources.

Most notably, we recognize that greater social awareness is necessary to tackle these socioeconomic disparities and successfully aid communities who are most at risk. As we came to understand these key factors, we learned how community engagement and community partners can act as equalizers in this great fight against maternal mortality.

We would like to thank Mommie Support Network for allowing us to partner with them. Additionally, we would like to give a huge thank-you to our community partner, Alicea Jones, for trusting us with this project. Finally, our efforts would not have been possible without the support of our coordinators: Nitakuwa Barrett, MSN, RN; Madalyn Rosenthal; Valeria Chávez; and Steve Steffensen, M.D.