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Keystone Connection to Wellness addresses maternal health disparities

In January 2020, Project HOMEIndependence Blue Cross (Independence), and AmeriHealth Caritas launched “Keystone Connection to Wellness” to address the significant health disparities and life expectancy in North Philadelphia, where infant mortality is 56 percent higher than in the City as a whole and 126 percent above the national rate. More than two years later, the program is thriving and leading to healthy pregnancies and healthy children.

Keystone Connection to Wellness brings resources beyond immediate medical care to Project HOME patients. The program is a pilot within the recently announced Accelerate Health Equity collaboration that includes Independence, AmeriHealth Caritas, the City of Philadelphia and a range of regional health systems and educational institutions.

“To address health equity in the City of Philadelphia, we have to understand where health outcomes come from. The biggest drivers for health outcomes are social determinants of health. And it is not necessarily all about making it to your doctor’s appointment or, eating healthy. It is also about other factors, like how you can provide for your family, put food on the table, and have a safe house to live in. Those things are going impact your health in the long run,” said Nayeli Spahr, M.D., M.P.H., director of Reproductive and Child Health for Project HOME.

Keystone Connection to Wellness includes Project HOME’s Centering Pregnancy and Centering Parenting, which are national, evidence-based maternal health models that offer moms a circle of support and higher levels of care through their pregnancy (Centering Pregnancy) and after delivery during post-partum and pediatric care (Centering Parenting).This work is one of the ways Independence is supporting the Blue Cross Blue Shield commitment nationally to reduce Black maternal mortality by 50 percent over the next five years.

Unlike typical pre-natal care, this model keeps patients engaged for up to three years, creating a family-like environment where patients feel connected to their health professionals and to their community. Participants receive education about breastfeeding or preparing for labor, for example. Mothers also learn vital skills such as pediatric CPR and can take classes in safe sleep for their infants. The programming is also open to families. Fathers, grandparents, and other caregivers are welcome to participate, learn and contribute in Centering with the birthing parent.

The program creates a support network for mothers-to-be and new mothers outside their family and friends where they can talk about health, raising children, and other topics in a safe and nurturing environment.

“As a provider, I definitely learned so much more about my patients in the Centering model than I would ever in a one-on-one encounter. The participants feel so much more open to share about their experiences and not feel like they are being judged. There is less of a hierarchy in that relationship because you are sitting in a circle and you are all sharing that experience you have had,” Dr. Spahr said.

Currently, three North Philadelphia Project HOME locations serve as hubs for Keystone Connection to Wellness: the Stephen Klein Wellness Center, Honickman Learning Center Comcast Technology Labs, and the Helen Brown Community Center. At these locations, Keystone Connection to Wellness participants can access a range of services, from dental care and pharmacy services to literacy classes.

Media contact:
Grant Gegwich