Maddy Spahr is Helping Women to Have Healthy Babies

Posted on: January 14, 2014Florida
Maddy meeting with client
Maddy meeting with a pregnant client to screen her for pregnancy risk factors in order to offer the expecting mother the appropriate education she needs to increase her chance of a healthy pregnancy.

I serve at University of Florida Health Jacksonville hospital in their Healthy Start department as a Women’s Services Outreach Associate.  Healthy Start is a statewide program that provides resources and referrals to pregnant women. The goal is to reduce infant mortality by helping women have a healthy pregnancy and healthy children.  I meet with pregnant women who come into the clinic, identify their risk factors, and educate them on having a healthy pregnancy.  I also call pregnant patients who come into the emergency room to make sure they are healthy and receiving prenatal care. Many of the women in the Healthy Start program, including the women I serve and educate, come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.  If these patients are high risk, I send their information to case managers who follow them throughout their pregnancies. 

My favorite part of service at my host site is interacting with the patients.  Patients fill out a survey of questions assessing their risks during pregnancy, and based on their answers I provide them with the necessary education and resources.  During this process, many women open up, sharing personal stories and entrusting me with important information.  I am honored so many women feel comfortable enough discussing these stories with me, and being able to share my day with them is a meaningful part of my service.

These interactions are also important because they are the only time I see each patient.  If women need follow up, I send their case to a case manager.  Therefore, I am as thorough as possible in providing education and resources, and I have to trust that the patients will use them.

In addition to my service at my host site, I serve at various organizations in Jacksonville with my fellow NFHC members. Thus far, I have served with Hubbard House, (a domestic violence shelter), Habitat for Humanity, and The Arc Jacksonville (an organization that serves adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities). Most recently, I handed out condoms to individuals in a low-socioeconomic area and served at a UF Health baby shower.

NFHC volunteers serving at a UF Health baby shower
NFHC members volunteering at a UF Health baby shower for expecting mothers in Jacksonville.

The baby shower is an event that my host site puts on three times a year for pregnant women in our community.  Women come to the hospital and organizations set up booths where women can get education and small giveaways.  A variety of different partner organizations participated, including Babies“R”Us, the Magnolia Project, Florida Poison Information, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies.  There are also organizations there discussing car seat safety and healthy dental habits for newborn babies.  After visiting all the booths, women move into a large auditorium where Healthy Start staff provide more education and raffle off prizes like cribs, pack ‘n plays, baby blankets and diapers, and car seats.  Pregnant women leave the baby shower with a lot of helpful information about having a healthy pregnancy and, hopefully, something exciting to help them prepare for their newborn!

My service at UF Health strengthens the impact Healthy Start is able to have on pregnant women in the community.  As an AmeriCorps member, I am able to increase patients' access to Healthy Start and provide more thorough education and services to those already enrolled.  I am excited to see what new service projects we will do in the upcoming months and I am looking forward to meeting with and educating more pregnant women!

Host Site

5316-18 North Pearl Street Jacksonville, FL 32208
5316-18 North Pearl Street Jacksonville, FL 32208