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Huizenga Announces Grant to Reduce Infant Mortality, Improve Outcomes, & Help Families in Kent County

Washington, September 17, 2019

Today, Congressman Bill Huizenga (MI-02), released the following statement after the Health and Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced the awarding of a $1,092,899 grant to Spectrum Health for its Strong Beginnings Program. Strong Beginnings is a collaboration of Kent County organizations and agencies dedicated to improving maternal-child health and eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in birth outcomes. It provides outreach, case management, education, mental health services, and a fatherhood program.

“The Strong Beginnings program is a critical lifesaving program in West Michigan and a leader for national Healthy Start programs around the country,” said Congressman Bill Huizenga.  “This grant will help improve pregnancy outcomes, reduce infant mortality, and help women, infants, and families in Kent County reach their fullest potential. By reducing disparities, improving treatment options, and providing additional resources to families, Strong Beginnings is helping make West Michigan a stronger community and an even better place to call home.”

Strong Beginnings serves more than 1,200 Kent County families per year through providing home visits by teams of community health workers, nurses, social workers and mental health therapists for women and their partners during pregnancy and early childhood. Participants in the program had much higher rates of prenatal care, postpartum visits, and well child visits.

Research using data from the State of Michigan shows that Strong Beginnings reaches the highest risk women, in extreme poverty, in abusive relationships, substance using, and a clinical diagnosis of depression. Of the women in the mental health program, there was a decrease in depression scores of 25%, 92% of pregnant women stayed clean and sober until delivery, and 90% met treatment goals.

Conservative estimates show that Strong Beginnings is preventing at least five infant deaths per year in Kent County.

Partners in Strong Beginnings include Mercy Health, Metro Health, Kent County Health Department, Cherry Health, Arbor Circle, Michigan State University, Grand Rapids African American Health Institute, and Healthy Kent’s 90-member Infant Health Action Team.

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