Healthy Connections, Inc. Healthy Families Arkansas
- Need: High poverty rates and lack of access to healthcare make caring for unborn and newborn children difficult for young mothers in Arkansas’s Polk and Garland Counties.
- Intervention: An Arkansas-based program provides a national healthcare service to expectant and young mothers. Prenatal check-ups, education, transportation, well-baby checks and child immunizations are all provided by the Healthy Connections, Inc.
- Results: The program’s results demonstrate an increase in first trimester prenatal care rates and child immunization rates, as well as a dramatic decrease in confirmed cases of child abuse.
Promising (About evidence-level criteria)
According to the Census Reporter, Polk County, Arkansas has some of the highest poverty rates in the state, with 24.1% living below the poverty line. In 2016, County Health Ranking reports 36% of children live in single-parent homes. In Garland County, located 2 counties east of Polk, 28% of the children live in poverty and 39% live in single-parent households. Teen birth rates run higher in these 2 counties than the rest of the state. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women from low socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to face complications during pregnancy, such as preterm birth.
Since research shows that home visiting can break the cycle of poverty, teen pregnancy, and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), a coalition of various organizations came together to form a solution. Healthy Connections, Inc. (HCI) was created and now, as a federal community health center, offers Polk, Garland, Hot Springs, Montgomery and Clark Counties uninsured or underinsured residents medical, dental, and social services at a discounted rate.
HCI administers Healthy Families America (HFA), an evidence-based national program that provides home visits. In 2011, HFA was designated by the U.S. Department of the Health and Human Services as 1 of 7 proven home visiting models. HCI chose the HFA program model to offer home visits through outreach workers to single or low-income parents; households with a history of abuse, mental illness, or domestic violence; and young or expectant mothers up to 25 years of age. All services are free and are provided regularly until the child is 3 years old. HCI HFA is fully accredited by Healthy Families America.
HCI HFA utilizes the Arkansas Home Visiting Network Training Institute to provide all outreach workers in the state with relevant professional development. The training is also available online. The Healthy Families America’s core training curriculum is also used to train their outreach workers.
This video describes the help that HCI HFA offers to residents in Arkansas:
In each county, a coalition made up of health and social service agencies provide the bulk of referrals to HCI HFA. The program also receives support from the Arkansas Home Visiting Network, a group developed from the federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program dollars granted to the Arkansas Department of Health.
The original project (Healthy Families Arkansas) was funded by a Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Rural Health Care Services Outreach grant and began in 1998. As the program has evolved, they have received funds from the Office of Adolescent Health, Daughters of Charity: Province of the West and the Arkansas Children’s Trust Fund, to name a few.
HCI HFA outreach workers provide the following services to clients:
- Design customized service plans to meet individual needs
- Ensure doctor visits and well-baby checks are completed
- Provide pregnancy education
- Ensure immunizations are up to date
- Offer home visits to provide education on a variety of topics, including parenting, child development, nutrition, etc.
- Address any other family needs
The HCI HFA program continues to succeed in achieving its objectives:
- 100% of children in the program receive well-baby checks and immunizations.
- 90% of pregnant women receive 13 prenatal visits and participate in at least 6 prenatal education classes.
- In 2016, 857 home visits were completed and 476 referrals were made to community resources.
- The number of confirmed cases of child abuse have dramatically decreased.
One study by McKelvey et al. found that adolescent mothers enrolled in the program had better parenting scores than mothers in the control group.
McKelvey, L., Burrow, N., Balamurugan A., Whiteside-Mansell, L., Plummer, P. (2012). Effects of home visiting on adolescent mothers' parenting attitudes. American Journal of Public Health, 102(10). Article Abstract.
The HCI HFA model can address many of the challenges endemic to communities that have a limited number of service providers helping an underserved population. At-risk families and young mothers can lack the knowledge, resources, or initiative to participate in community-based programs.
A culturally competent in-home education program can provide information and resources for young families and mothers when and where they are most needed. Communities wishing to replicate this program should consider the particular needs of their clients and what medium is best for delivering information.
Healthy Families America can be contacted for further information on affiliation with the model program.
Children and youth
Prenatal care and obstetrics
July 13, 2005
August 8, 2017
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.