Healthy Moms and Babes: Bringing Care and Education to Pregnant Women in Need
By Megan Simmermeyer, Communications co-op
For 31 years, Healthy Moms and Babes has worked toward a future “where all babies born in Greater Cincinnati are born healthy to healthy moms [and] embraced by a loving family and community who help them thrive.” The organization’s vision is driven by the spirit of their founders—the Sisters of Charity, Dominican Sisters, Sisters of Mercy, and Franciscan Sisters. Sister of Charity Tricia Cruise spearheads the organization as the current CEO and president, and she says her role is supporting her staff, as well as their clients, in whatever way she can.
When Healthy Moms and Babes first began, the small staff worked solely from their mobile van, and only offered pregnancy testing for women in the area. Once a woman learned she was pregnant, she would be directed to a hospital, doctor, or health clinic for the remainder of her pregnancy. Since, the organization has expanded their services to include more testing as well as education.
Their van continues to operate in the Greater Cincinnati area, and visits 17 different neighborhoods to provide prenatal care and education to their clients who are typically women 16-25 years old and live in underserved, predominantly African-American communities. In addition to pregnancy screenings, individuals who access the van can receive assistance scheduling doctor visits and applying for insurance, and can procure information or referrals for medical and social service issues.
According to S. Tricia, one of the organization’s primary concerns is health education. Visitors to their vans can participate in education sessions that include topics such as what to expect during pregnancy, prenatal care, care of the child during the first year of life, parenting, and general health.
In addition to their van, Healthy Moms and Babes has four cars to provide in-home services for pregnant women and new mothers. Like the van, the cars provide support and education for their clients throughout the pregnancy and the child’s first year of life, as well as assistance in obtaining medical care and insurance, and access to social services, mental health services, mentoring, and support.
However, the cars provide another level of assistance the van cannot—transportation. Whether a woman needs a ride to a doctor or social service appointment, one of the organization’s cars can provide transportation for her to reach her destination.
This past year, about 2,500 women benefited from the van’s services, and another 350 were supported via the cars. S. Tricia estimates that 100 new babies were born to the women who continued to utilize services of Healthy Moms and Babes throughout their pregnancy.
Within the communities they serve, the organization has become so well recognized that the people trust and respect them. S. Tricia said one time another car had parked in the space where their van usually parks, and a group of men on the corner physically picked the car up and moved it so that Healthy Moms and Babes could continue to administer their services to the area. And of the 18 staff members, two of which are registered nurses, the majority are former clients who went to school and returned to work with the organization.
While Healthy Moms and Babes is primarily a mobile unit, they launched a three-year pilot housing program at the Sisters of Charity’s Segale House. The house serves as an apartment building for pregnant women with no place to stay. Each apartment has two bedrooms—one for the mother and another for one or two children—and the women can stay for as long as 18 months.
In addition to having a secure place to live, the women at the Segale House learn to live in community and how to rent. They do not pay for anything while living there, but they learn how to build credit, gain income, etc. Working with the organization’s staff, the goal is for each woman to obtain self-sufficient and secure housing, as well as receive an education. Of the women at the Segale House, one mother is attending nursing school while another has already become a certified nursing assistant. The house also celebrated the births of three new babies.
Healthy Moms and Babes continues to work toward providing support and education to pregnant women of the Greater Cincinnati area through all aspects of their organization. They recently purchased a new van for their mobile unit, and S. Tricia is working with a class of graphic design students at Mount St. Joseph University to redesign the organization’s entire brand.
The class began by revamping the mission and vision statements, and will soon move into the design aspect of creating a logo, some signage, brochures and other miscellaneous print material, and bus and car wraps. Should they have time, the class might even get to redesign the website in cooperation with Sanger & Eby, a local strategic design and development agency. The new van and reconfigured brochures and website will enable the organization to further their vision and reach as many underserved pregnant women as they can.