ACCESS works to help moms give infants a healthy start

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, ACCESS Media Relations Specialist
March 18, 2016

Giving your baby a healthy start can lay the right foundation for a lifetime of success. For 19 years, ACCESS has operated a program called Westside Healthy Start (WHS). The program serves Chicago's West Side communities of North Lawndale, Austin, and East and West Garfield Park. The lead agency for this initiative, ACCESS works in conjunction with local partners Lawndale Christian Health Center and PCC Community Wellness Center to provide program participants the best possible services.

Westside Healthy Start Services (WHS)

WHS gives mothers access to prenatal health care beginning early in their pregnancy. Health care is provided throughout the duration of the pregnancy and after birth, continuing until the baby is 2 years old. Westside Healthy Start also provides high-risk obstetric services, in addition to critical screenings, counseling and referrals for issues that include drug and alcohol dependency, behavioral health issues, domestic violence and homelessness. 

Westside Healthy Start Approach

The Westside Healthy Start program strives to reduce the rates of infant mortality and prevent low birth weight. To reach this goal, the program:

  • Improves women's health
  • Promotes quality prenatal and postpartum care
  • Strengthens family resilience
  • Provides resources to mothers aimed at reducing infant mortality and improving birth outcomes
  • Increases accountability through quality improvement, performance monitoring and evaluation.  

Empowering Mothers

In addition to the health care services Westside Healthy Start provides, the program also gives mothers peer support and leadership training opportunities. Together these opportunities empower women and foster a sense of community. Women work with case managers who provide guidance and support, while gaining confidence and knowledge about motherhood and the best care methods.

For the most recent program year, more than 800 high-risk families received services from the WHS program. This included 518 pregnant women and 599 infants and children up to age 2. ​

The infant mortality rate for program participants in 2009 was 10.3, compared to 15.3 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in the overall WHS target area.

Male Involvement Program

ACCESS' Male Involvement program works with WHS participants to engage their male partners in their health and the health of their children. The program teaches critical parenting and life skills, makes connections to health services and provides job training, among other critical resources to help them succeed as fathers. The program engages the biological father of the children and, when warranted, the mother's significant male partner. ​

For the most recent program year, 266 men participated in activities, such as their partner's case management and medical visits and other supportive family activities.

Additional Support

The support that WHS provides to mothers extends beyond health care and peer support. The program also provides mothers with transportation services and employment training, helping them ensure that their child receives the best start possible.​

For more information about how ACCESS is helping West Side women become the best mothers possible, contact ACCESS' Westside Healthy Start program at 312.733.0065.