September 21st, 2020
Public health is a team sport. This is the first in a series of blogs highlighting some of the many partnerships AccessHealth Spartanburg has formed in its efforts to improve health outcomes throughout the Spartanburg community.
By Amber Pendergraph-Leak
Not that long ago, teen pregnancy, birth rates and disparities in poor birth outcomes were at crisis levels in Spartanburg County. The numbers of children being born here to young, single mothers — often in poverty — were among the highest in South Carolina, which itself had one of the highest rates of any state in the nation.
About a decade ago, Spartanburg came together as a community to address the issue and significantly lower our rate of teenage pregnancy. The organization I work for, Birth Matters, has been a key part of that effort. To be sure, we still have plenty of work to do, particularly in addressing racial disparities in poor birth outcomes — preterm births and low birth weight — and infant mortality. But our cumulative efforts have helped decrease teen pregnancies and adverse birth outcomes.
This work hasn’t been done in isolation. While we work with a variety of partners, AccessHealth Spartanburg is certainly one of the most important.
After meeting with an expectant mother for the first time, we often refer them and/or other adults in the home to AHS, which provides another level of access to health and social services that aids our work.
We often find that either the mother or other members of the family don’t have health insurance of any kind but have underlying health issues that need to be addressed. Even if the mother is in relatively good health, if the parent or grandparent or aunt she lives with is in poor health or is struggling to get the prescription medications they need, that creates additional stress that is not good for either the mother or the baby.
Having another organization like AccessHealth that can come in and provide additional expertise and guidance to the entire family is very important. Their care navigators and community health workers are there to help and guide people through the process of accessing all the assistance that they need.
Whether it’s the grandmother of an expectant mother who needs help obtaining the prescription medication she needs to manage diabetes or high blood pressure or a sibling who needs assistance with housing or SNAP benefits, I know I can refer my clients’ families to AHS and they will be responsive and compassionate.
This kind of collaboration is essential when it comes to community health and improving outcomes. It isn’t an overstatement to say it can be a matter of life or death for people without organizations like AHS and BirthMatters. And by working together, we are creating a growing cascade of impacts and positive outcomes.
Amber Pendergraph-Leak is the Lead Doula for BirthMatters. Learn more about their work and their impact on the community at birthmatters.org.