The services are already out there in Baltimore: Home visits for parents to help them adjust to the whirlwind of new parenthood. Free cribs for those who can’t afford them. Access to healthy food. Programs to help parents quit smoking, which is harmful to themselves and their babies.
The problem is new parents don’t always know how to access these essentials. “People need those things, but have barriers to connecting to them,” says CCP’s August Summers. “We want to help make that process smoother.”
The Maryland Community Health Resources Commission (MCHRC) has awarded a grant to the Baltimore City Health Department to support the expansion and improvement of B’more for Healthy Babies’ Care Coordination system, delivered in partnership with Healthcare Access Maryland. The work will begin in July.
As part of the award, the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs will develop ways to get more new parents linked up with city services to help keep newborns safe and healthy through better and centralized promotion of how to connect with care coordinators. In the first phase of this work, CCP will develop an external identity with input from care coordinators and new parents. A campaign strategy to promote care coordination and increase demand will follow.
“When it comes to B’more for Healthy Babies as a brand, it’s trusted, credible and that’s for a good reason,” says Summers, who leads CCP’s Baltimore work. “Now we want to build on that work, making it easier for those who need a broad array of assistance to get it, by calling attention to the supportive people who can help them through this process with care and empathy.”
Currently, most outreach for the care coordination work comes through doctors’ offices when providers complete a referral form to the program. But that doesn’t reach some pregnant people, he says. Under this new grant, CCP will develop a communication strategy to encourage pregnant and postpartum people to access care coordination themselves, by filling out an online self-referral form.
“It’s going to help the initiative expand and strengthen a system where I as a parent can refer myself for services I need during this demanding moment in life,” Summers says. “If I’m wondering how do I feed my baby, I don’t have to figure it out for myself. We want parents to know how they can initiate the first step to get what they need.”
The goal of the three-year grant is to enroll an additional 550 people into the care coordination program through provider, community and self-referrals.
CCP has worked with B’more for Healthy Babies for a decade, helping develop the city’s successful “SLEEP SAFE” campaign to reduce infant mortality. CCP also develops communication materials for B’more for Healthy Babies’ coalitions on teen pregnancy prevention, intervention for substance use and mental health, breastfeeding, early literacy development/school readiness and other health topics.