Targeting Disparities in Maternal Healthcare
Every day, our patients come into the clinic from so many different walks of life. Despite their paths, the patients meet at a central destination: the hospital. Whether the patient parks their car in the garage or walks from the bus stop, they both are ultimately greeted by the check-in tablets on the third floor at the UF Health Ambulatory Care Clinic. The tablets are situated in front of the check-in desk, where the nurse manager sits with the interpreter tablet on standby, ready to answer questions and direct patients to the tablet to start the check-in process.
Hospitals are a leveling ground- regardless of whether you are uninsured, wealthy, undocumented, homeless, a celebrity, or incarcerated, everyone deserves the right to be treated. While in the hospital, so many things are easily controlled- patients receive a meal with the same options, smoking is not allowed on campus, and the number and even hours of visitors are limited. But, what happens after they are discharged with a prescription of metformin ready for pickup at the pharmacy across town and left with a packet of information about diet modification and incorporating exercises into their daily routine? When they step into those elevators and out through the double doors, suddenly the very situation that united patients, their location, becomes one that divides them. How will they get across town to the pharmacy? Even if they are to get their prescription transferred to a nearby pharmacy, how will they go pick it up? Maybe they can’t afford to pick up the healthier options at the grocery store and have to rely on staples with a high glycemic index. Then what?
As a Maternal Health Coordinator, I seek to identify and target some of these disparities. As I do coordinated intake and referrals on moms at their first prenatal care visit as well as with newborns right after delivery, I connect moms with home visitation services. Through referrals to various community resources and programs, I hope to first identify the need and then partner with moms to help prioritize their health and well-being. Along the way, these disparities are part of their story, and to be able to share that with patients is truly gratifying. Human connection is indispensable in making people, human beings, feel comfortable in sharing their hardships, no matter how small or big. Whether it's connecting patients with insurance, resources, mental health services, food drives, support groups, WIC, or shelters, the first step is to make the patient feel as if they are being listened to. Then everything else should follow.
But, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes patients have different priorities. Sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to. They missed their bus to the food drive or maybe it was difficult getting the kids ready in the morning. There are many obstacles that can come into play. As a Maternal Health Coordinator, my role is to bridge those obstacles and to meet the patients halfway, whether that is delivering food to the case managers to take during their home visits or providing moms with bus passes to our weekly Moving Mom’s walking group.
Regardless of what goes on, we work with the moms to help improve birth outcomes. Whether that is by referring moms to home visitation programs or with other resources, we meet moms where they are. And home visitation programs work with them to get them where they want to be. Sometimes all they need along the way is a listening ear or a bit of extra encouragement and support.
Jacksonville FL, 32209