What is New Haven Healthy Start?
New Haven Healthy Start’s mission is to reduce infant mortality and eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in birth outcomes.
It is part of a national network of 100 Healthy Start programs in 37 states and funded through the Department of Health and Human Services Maternal and Child Health Bureau. New Haven Healthy Start (NHHS) was established in 1997 as a program of The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. The program grew from the work of the Commission on Child and Infant Health, which was convened by The Community Foundation in 1985 and was a collaboration between health officials, community leaders and child care advocates.
How It Works: The Care-Coordination Service Model
NHHS strengthens the entire health system for women and babies through its care-coordination service model. NHHS care coordinators are located at Yale New Haven Health, Fair Haven Community Health Center, Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center, and the homeless agencies Christian Community Action and New Reach, Inc.
Every woman who has a reproductive health visit at Yale-New Haven Health or one of the two community health centers is entered into New Haven Healthy Start. Pregnant women are also referred to Healthy Start by primary care providers, the New Haven Health Department, homeless shelters, community agencies, the Housing Authority of New Haven and other community partners.
Universal Risk Assessment
A risk assessment is given to each woman to determine her medical and nonmedical needs so that she is provided with the appropriate level of care and support.
New Haven Healthy Start worked with its various partners to develop and validate a universal intake tool that is used by all providers in the Healthy Start network. Once a participant is in the NHHS program’s system, she can see different participating providers without being asked to complete additional forms.
New Haven Healthy Start care coordinators help participants access resources that will contribute to healthy pregnancies and successful births. This work includes but is not limited to:
- Referring uninsured women to the New Haven Health Department to sign up for HUSKY, the state Medicaid program for children and parents
- Helping arrange childcare, transportation and translation services
- Referrals to specialists or mental health providers
- Connecting women at risk of homelessness to housing services
- Screening to ensure qualified benefits are being received
When a New Haven Healthy Start participant misses a health appointment, a community outreach worker is dispatched reach out to her and help her overcome the barriers that caused her absence. Community outreach workers are hired from within the communities they serve and recruited from local places such as beauty salons, libraries and laundromats. This approach yields results. Ninety-nine percent of women in NHHS have an ongoing source of primary and preventive care services, 96% requiring a referral completed their referral, and 100% received screening for risk factors.
New Haven Healthy Start is guided by the community through the NHHS Consortium, which is unique among all the Healthy Start programs in the country. The Consortium gathers all stakeholders: residents, healthcare providers, mothers, fathers and caregivers. Together, consortium members create a network of community support around the issues of health equity and infant mortality. Monthly meetings are held to discuss barriers to quality healthcare, share resources and advocate for changes to improve the health and wellbeing of our community. In addition to strengthening the local perinatal health system, consortium members also advocate at the national level for continued support for Healthy Start.
Prior to New Haven Healthy Start, one out of 50 babies in New Haven died within their first year of birth, an Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) of more than 20 deaths per 1,000 live births. The IMR was 79% higher than the state average and 64% higher than the national average.
The IMR in New Haven has fallen to 7 deaths per 1,000 live births. For New Haven Healthy Start babies, the IMR is 4.5 deaths per 1,000 live births, or one out of 222, which is also below both state and national averages. Infant mortality among African American babies in New Haven, however, is twice the rate of infants of white mothers.