Making Sure All Babies Get a Healthy Start

MaryAnn Brady believes one of the best ways to help a society is to help its mothers – and that’s why she serves as manager of business development and program operations for Rochester Regional’s Healthy Moms program.

Apr. 1, 2022 4   min read

When you support mothers, you make generations of difference, said MaryAnn Brady, manager of business development and program operations for Rochester Regional’s Healthy Moms program.

“Healthy Moms is a vital part of the community,” she said, adding that the program serves women who are pregnant or who are parenting children under the age of 4. “Our goal is to educate moms and help get them to where they are able to take care of themselves and have a healthy baby.”

The women who come to Healthy Moms are all living at or below the poverty line, she said. Some have a history of domestic violence or other trauma. Many deal with food insecurities, a lack of housing and a variety of other issues that make living a healthy life difficult.

“There are so many women out there who don’t have support systems, and Healthy Moms, at times, is their only support system,” Brady said. “Some of our moms have never had a job or didn’t make it past seventh or eighth grade in school.”

Meeting the need

To meet those needs, Healthy Moms offers everything from pregnancy education classes and mental health counseling to job training, parenting skills coaching and monthly fruits and vegetables. “We address a lot of the needs for our moms in our program, and if we can’t help, we find someplace that can.”

Clearly, it’s working because they’re seeing improvements in the numbers of babies born full term and at a healthy weight. In fact, from 2010 to 2019, moms who attended pregnancy education classes reduced premature births by 49 percent and increased the chance of delivering their babies at a healthy weight by 37 percent.

“We’ve seen healthier babies, and we’ve seen women become more successful,” Brady said. “One mom couldn’t read, and now she has a high school diploma.”

Thanks to its job training program, called Project Independence, 137 moms transitioned from public assistance to employment between 2012 and 2019. That’s an estimated tax savings of more than $1.5 million and an unfathomable increase in confidence and stability.

The donor difference

And thanks to donors, Healthy Moms can continue to support moms in need.

“The dollars that people donate often go to purchase incentives for our moms, so they can work toward earning strollers and cribs and gift cards,” Brady said, adding that right now a big need is replacing the vans the program uses to help families with transportation. “They are old, and the repairs are starting to nickel and dime our budget. Wear and tear is really taking its toll.”

Every dollar counts because every mom counts.

“Without this program, I think a lot of the ladies that are in this community would be lost,” Brady said. “They wouldn’t have a place where they feel safe to get the help they need.”

Opportunities for a ‘Healthy Mom’

Melissa Lomack, one of more than 400 women served each year by Healthy Moms, is grateful and considers the program life-changing.

 “Thank you Healthy Moms for all of the opportunities, professionally and personally, that you brought me and gave me the confidence to seize. Thank you for instilling in me new aspirations and for giving me the confidence to go out and pursue my dreams. Thank you Healthy Moms for continuing to be my second home. I will never stop talking about Healthy Moms and sharing my experience with every one that I meet. My hope and my prayer is that you, too, someday will have a place like this and an experience that you can look back on and truly say, ‘I wouldn't be where I am today without Healthy Moms.’”

NEXT STEPS Healthy Moms Program

Through this program, Rochester Regional Health aims to help strengthen families and give them a chance at a healthier future.

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