Healthy Start Family Event Is Fun & Educational

Healthy Start Family Event Is Fun & Educational

A sunny day, free lunches, cotton candy, and Zumba dancing brought out several hundred people to the New Haven Green last Friday for New Haven Healthy Start's fourth-annual Family, Fun, and Fitness Day. In addition to the food and entertainment, New Haven Healthy Start and its partner agencies connected with families and handed out information about health and social services available to support healthy children and families.

Tamara Jones* found information about rental assistance from the Community Action Agency table. Jones had come to the Green looking for assistance with housing. A victim of domestic violence, Jones and her four-year old child were recently living out of her car in another part of the State following an eviction. Now living temporarily in New Haven with a family member whose house was under foreclosure, Jones was anxious to find a place. Because her abuse occurred more than a year ago, however, Jones said she did not qualify for special assistance available for victims.

"It's been very difficult," she said. "There is no help unless you need immediate help."

New Haven Healthy Start Director Kenn Harris said that poor mothers frequently interact with a dizzying number of different programs and systems.

"It can be overwhelming," Harris said.

To improve infant and child health, the agency coordinates care among several different providers for the mothers it serves. In addition to The Community Action Agency, Cornell Scott Hill Health Center, the MOMS Partnership, Yale New Haven Hospital, The New Haven Health Dept., New Reach, and the Fair Haven Community Health Center had staff on hand to meet with attendees.

Free health screenings were also provided.

At the stage, the Zumba team "Hot Bod Squad" kept children and parents moving to a steady beat. Lead by Odessa Walters and her son, Lorenzo, the duo brings its routines to schools and community-based events in order to promote health and fitness. Odessa Walters, a nurse at the V.A., said she became an instructor after Zumba helped her lose more than 60 pounds

"Our family has always loved to dance," she said.

*name changed for privacy

Did you know?

New Haven Healthy Start runs risk assessments among its mothers, including screening for depression, and collaborates with New Haven Mental Health Outreach for Mothers (MOMS). MOMS received a $2.5 million, five-year grant that pays for therapy groups at public housing, community ambassadors who facilitate empowerment groups, and a public awareness effort to undo the stigma that prevents mothers from seeking help for mental health.