A Faith-based Program for African-American Pregnant Women
In the United States, prematurity/low birthweight is the second leading cause of all infant deaths (during the first year of life) and the leading cause of infant death among African-American infants. According to information from the March of Dimes Perinatal Data Center, the rate of preterm births in the United States is highest among African-American infants at 17.8% (18.6% in Texas—the highest among any subgroup). To address this disparity, the March of Dimes Texas Chapter launched the Honey Child Prenatal Education Program in 2006. The Honey Child Prenatal Education Program has been designed to provide African-American women with the culturally-appropriate information and support needed to have the healthiest possible pregnancy and birth outcome. The intervention targets African-American women of childbearing age with a specific focus on women ages 17-44. In 2008, the March of Dimes Texas Chapter piloted Honey Child in five churches in Texas.
Honey Child has two core program components:
1. Group Prenatal Education Sessions: A cognitive component, designed to provide accurate and timely information in the area of prenatal care and pregnancy; and
2. Mentoring: A social support component designed to empower and promote participants to make behavior changes in those areas that need improvement (e.g., seeking prenatal healthcare)—or to support existing behaviors that promote healthy pregnancies.
Honey Child uses a spiritual approach to promote prenatal health. The curriculum incorporates interactive group activities such as prenatal yoga and exercise as well as individual reflection and spiritual messaging, making it an appropriate prenatal health education program for the church setting. The Honey Child curriculum includes six sessions of two hours each. Topics include: Nutrition, Relaxation and Exercise, Prenatal Care, Self-Esteem, Preterm Birth, and Labor & Delivery.
The program expanded to two new sites in 2010 for a total of 7 sites across the state (Arlington, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio). The chapter partnered with the Tarrant County Health Department to conduct a statewide evaluation. Results reported in 2011 cover the time period of 11/2007 – 3/2011. Final data are still being analyzed, but early results show impressive results:
- 77% of participants showed an increase in knowledge from baseline to follow-up.
- The mean gestational age for infants born to Honey Child participants was 38 weeks, with a range from 28 to 42 weeks.
- Preterm birth rates for participants was 14% (Approximately 86% were born at 37 weeks gestation or later, 8% were born between 32 and 36 weeks, and 6% born at less than 32 weeks of gestation).
- There was a statistically significant inverse correlation between perceived maternal stress and social support. As social support increased, maternal stress decreased.
- Participants gave the Honey Child Prenatal education experience an average score of 9.5 (out of 10).
Host churches have embraced the Honey Child program and increased awareness of the prematurity problem in the community and with referral organizations. Churches have also expanded prematurity awareness by participating and hosting Prematurity Awareness month activities in their churches which included Prematurity Awareness Summits, Honey Child baby showers and Prematurity Awareness Sunday activities.