The leaders of the Healthy Beginnings program that began in October believe they are just one piece of a large quilt that can take health care to another level.
But they were the initial piece, and the one that has sparked a new way of defining health care for mothers and families.
Healthy Beginnings, a program funded by a 20-year commitment from the Carle Foundation, aims to integrate the whole circle of community services, starting with health care. By providing in-home, no-cost health care for those who are at risk of being left behind, Healthy Beginnings starts the process of getting help to people in need. Health services are only one part of that journey.
“Locking arms, we can get a lot more done,” said Healthy Beginnings director Jonathan Woods.
Eligibility is for Champaign-Urbana residents who are less than 28 weeks pregnant and are financially insecure. (“We don’t check incomes,” said Julianna Sellett, Carle vice president of community health initiatives.) U.S. citizenship is not a requirement, nor is health insurance. Additionally, further health services beyond the in-home visits need not be conducted at Carle; the company also is connected with other providers such as Frances Nelson and Christie Clinic.
More than 70 families are already in the program, which is scaled to take 200 families.
After an initial evaluation, Healthy Beginnings works with families not only through health care resources but also in various other ways. The program connects families with other community resources that can aid in their overall well-being. It is not a one-and-done program; nurses provide consistent follow-up care after the initial screening.
“Our job is to learn all of the factors and find ways to be efficient and connected,” Sellett said, “and not add to the fragmentation. We’re not saying (to families), ‘Go to these 20 agencies.'”
Healthy Beginnings is working with numerous community agencies — “all of them,” Sellett said — to get families a range of helpful services beyond health care.
“The health care and education sectors are the key elements,” Sellett said. “It’s a long-term relationship. We’re working with community resources really tightly and integrating together.”
For families to eventually achieve long-term healthy benefits, the process of connecting various groups that can help them is crucial.
“It takes all of us doing our piece,” Sellett said. “We have a role like everybody else does. It’s nice to see everybody else doing what they can.”