News / Health

For Healthy Families, Prevention Begins Before Birth

For Healthy Families, Prevention Begins Before Birthi
X
July 09, 2013 6:12 PM
An innovative program in the U.S. state of Virginia supports thousands of new mothers and their potentially at-risk babies every year, even before they are born. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports, Healthy Families' mission is to teach new and expectant moms how to raise happy, healthy children by reaching them in the first three years of their lives when brain development is at its most formative stage.
An innovative program in the U.S. state of Virginia supports thousands of new mothers and their potentially at-risk babies every year, even before they are born.  

The mission of Healthy Families is to teach new and expectant moms how to raise happy, healthy children by reaching them in the first three years of their lives, when brain development is at its most formative stage.

Setting the foundation

Vijan is a happy baby. He’s curious, sociable and developmentally exactly where he’s supposed to be for a 13 month old.

Part of that can be attributed to Tina Fontaine, a family support worker with Healthy Families, who has visited Vijan and his mother, Bhawana, since before he was born.

Once a week, Fontaine arrives armed with books and everyday objects she uses to teach the first-time mother how to encourage her baby’s development.

With Vijan's mother Bhawana looking on, family support worker Tina Fontaine uses play time to help develop the baby's motor skills. (VOA/J. Taboh)With Vijan's mother Bhawana looking on, family support worker Tina Fontaine uses play time to help develop the baby's motor skills. (VOA/J. Taboh)
x
With Vijan's mother Bhawana looking on, family support worker Tina Fontaine uses play time to help develop the baby's motor skills. (VOA/J. Taboh)
With Vijan's mother Bhawana looking on, family support worker Tina Fontaine uses play time to help develop the baby's motor skills. (VOA/J. Taboh)
During this visit, she introduces a tin container with a slit on the plastic cover and encourages Vijan to push poker chips through it. But the baby prefers to take the chips out instead, and that’s just fine with Fontaine.

The idea she says, is to use simple activities to promote motor development and problem solving. And if the baby wants to take the lead, she’s all for it.

Building a bond

The main purpose of these sessions, says Fontaine, “is to build a bond between the parent and the child and to help the child get ready for pre-school.”

By helping these children maximize their social and cognitive development during the early years, the program is also setting the foundation for success later in life.

Part of that effort includes reading, and Fontaine appears delighted when Vijan climbs into his mother's lap and becomes absorbed by a book she reads to him.

"Even though they don’t understand it, it’s a feeling, a sense of warmth, that they get from sitting in the parents' lap - whether it’s the mom or the dad - and reading," Fontaine said. "That kind of a child, as they grow up, develops a love for reading."

For Bhawana, a recent immigrant from Nepal, being new in a country without many relatives was overwhelming at first. But she says Fontaine taught her "everything."

“She’s like my sister," Bhawana said. "She’s always coming and plays with us, play[s] with my baby and she’s like my family member.”

Early start

Fontaine's next visit is with Eboni Vaughn. The soon-to-be single mother, 19, is five months pregnant with her first baby and has been seeing Fontaine every two weeks for the past several months.

Fontaine provides pre-natal advice and educational materials and will continue with frequent visits through the baby's third birthday.

Vaughn looks forward to Fontaine’s visits. “I don’t have someone I can come home to and talk to daily about what’s been going on, so with Ms. Fontaine coming, I can express ‘This is what I’m going through, this is how I feel.’ She won’t judge me or the situation. She just gives me the best advice.”

An ounce of prevention

The Healthy Families home visiting program is run by Northern Virginia Family Service, a non-profit organization that serves 30,000 people annually.

 “We’re so good at putting money into prisons or into remedial education, into juvenile detention but not into prevention," said Mary Agee, president and CEO of the organization. "We know the factors that go into creating those negative outcomes, so why not avoid those in the first place?”

The home visiting program, which began in the 1990s, has reached more than 7,000 families, according to Agee.

“The majority of all of our children are testing on target when they enter kindergarten," she said. "We can show that over and over and over again that this program, this type of home visiting, works to mitigate any opportunity of a child not succeeding."

Agee says the organization's goal is to ensure that Healthy Families reaches everyone who needs its services at the start of their family's life.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
July 11, 2013 12:21 AM
Good program. Is this activity managed by NPO? Do the beneficiaies not need to pay for survices?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid