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New Initiative Helps Families Create Healthy Futures

August 9, 2013
Contacts: 

Elliot A. Segal 301-652-5001

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland School of Public Health is partnering with the Prince George's County Public School System and a local community center to improve the health of underserved families in the area.

(L to R): Elliot A. Segal, Healthy Futures program director; Lisa Sampson, Judy Hoyer Family Learning Center program manager; Laura Barbee-Matthews, Early Childhood Programs supervisor, Prince George's County Public SchoolsThe Healthy Futures Program (HFP), a UMD School of Public Health initiative focused on maternal and child health, will collaborate with the Judy Hoyer Family Learning Center in Adelphi, Md., to create a field office where local residents can receive information about and assistance with accessing health resources and services. 

Prince George's County, where UMD is located, has far fewer primary care providers for the population compared to surrounding counties and has one of the highest infant mortality rates in Maryland. Only 46 percent of mothers receive prenatal care in their first trimester. Less than two percent of one-year-olds get lead screenings even though housing in the area frequently contains lead and the test costs a mere eight dollars. Many residents who are eligible for federally funded health services and benefits are unaware of or unable to access them. As Medicaid and other services become widely available through the Affordable Care Act, awareness and education will play an important role in increasing access.

"The Healthy Futures Program is actively reaching out to expectant mothers and children from birth to age five, helping to educate and improve access to care and care management," says  Elliot Segal, director of the Healthy Futures Program and a professor of the practice in the Department of Health Services Administration. "This is key to reducing child obesity early and preventing future chronic illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease."

The UMD School of Public Health has been involved in the establishment of Maryland's Health Enterprise Zones – a program that seeks to reduce health disparities in underserved areas through incentives for health care providers and programs to locate in these neighborhoods. The school is also promoting the goals of the U.S. Department of Education's Promise Neighborhoods Initiative, run by CASA de Maryland in Prince George's County. The new Healthy Futures/Judy Hoyer Health Field Office will help individuals in these areas - particularly the Capitol Heights and the Hyattsville-Langley Park-Adelphi areas of Prince George's County  – obtain services such as Food Stamps/SNAP, medical assistance, family planning, and dental and vision services.

UMD School of Public Health students can receive academic credit or volunteer to serve as Healthy Futures interns, and are trained to recruit families to utilize health programs and other services available to them, said Healthy Futures director Elliot Segal. Students from the SPH departments of Kinesiology, Family Science and Behavioral and Community Health have already linked local families with needed services such as Food Stamps, dental care, child care, medical assistance and family planning services.

Junior Alaa El-Zein interns with Healthy Futures for about nine hours each week and is looking forward to helping staff the new field office. She has been in contact with dozens of community members to help them get access to health services and has visited several WIC clinics in the area to recruit others. She said the field office will be a valuable asset to the program.

"Now that we have a space it's going to be easier," she said. "We can actually have people come in and see us personally."

That personal contact could prove invaluable in setting many families on the path to a healthy future.

The Judy Hoyer Family Learning Center is the first of 25 child-development learning centers in Maryland named after Judy Hoyer, deceased wife of Congressman Steny Hoyer, U.S. Representative for Maryland's 5th congressional district. It was established to promote the school-readiness of local children through the school system and community partnerships. 

The Healthy Futures Program (HFP) was established by University of Maryland, School of Public Health, Department of Health Services Administration. The primary mission of HFP is to reduce childhood obesity, particularly among low-income young children and their families in Prince George's County. HFP aims to increase the receipt of prenatal and postpartum healthcare, as well as social services, among low-income women and their young children through partnerships and collaborations with public and private entities.

 

Photo (l to r): Elliot A. Segal, Healthy Futures program director; Lisa Sampson, Judy Hoyer Family Learning Center program manager; Laura Barbee-Matthews, Early Childhood Programs supervisor, Prince George's County Public Schools.