Ministry Fund Spotlight: Maternal, Child and Family Health Coalition

“We believe that partnering with new eyes happens when we join with others in working for systemic change that will enable all to live in right relationships.”

Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, Acts of Chapter 2013

For more than a decade, the Maternal, Child & Family Health Coalition of Metro St. Louis (MCFHC) has promoted the health of mothers and infants throughout the St. Louis area to improve birth outcomes and promote healthy lifestyles for families thus building healthier, better communities.

The Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet have helped to facilitate this goal by awarding a Feuerbacher Grant to MCFHC. These grants from the sisters support organizations that serve women and children in the St. Louis metro area—organizations that live out the CSJs' call to recognize the dignity of every person, walk with those in need and work toward systemic change.

MCFHC will apply the funds to two specific initiatives: Driving tours and the Making Change Happen Leadership Academy.

“Through our programs, there is better understanding of the issues and a collaboration about making improvements to the system,” says Angela Fulbright, director of advancement for MCFHC.

MCFHC leads “driving tours” of under-resourced neighborhoods to bring awareness to the needs of the at-risk communities. The tour takes providers and practitioners into the heart of the problem to personally see the hardships these families face.

“The goal of the tour is to create greater empathy and understanding of those living in poverty and experiencing racism in St. Louis and the impact those have on health,” says Fulbright.

She says that growing evidence points to a number of community conditions as having the largest impact on the health of poor, African-American women and families, contributing to high infant mortality, prematurity and low birth weight births. Known as “social detriments of health,” these factors include: environment, education, health and health care systems, social and community context, and economic conditions.

The result: according to the MCFHC website, every week in St. Louis, five babies die, 32 babies are born too small and 46 babies are born too early. On average, 285 infants are lost every year. In St. Louis, black babies are 3 1/2 times more likely to die in their first year. This disparity is the third highest ratio of black to white infant mortality out of 34 similar communities.

MCFHC’s leadership development program, the Making Change Happen Leadership Academy,  recognizes the importance of education in making significant changes to these numbers.

Making Change Happen currently supports 15-20 pregnant women and new mothers, giving young women the knowledge to identify problems in their communities and developing solutions. The women participate in training, leadership development, team building and grassroots action to help their babies and communities thrive.

All in all, MCFHC’s programs serve over 7,000 women and children. They continue their fight against infant mortality with nearly 300 organizations and 2,000 partners, including the Sisters of St. Joseph, who are proud to support MCDHC serve the dear neighbor without distinction.

By Abigail Blaes, 7/24/15

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