SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Healthy Start program, which offers services and resources to families for healthy pregnancies and births, continues to help families during the COVID-19 pandemic but not without some challenges.
The program also provides parenting education classes to families.
“It has been very difficult recently to enroll or to find pregnant women to enroll into the program,” said Amanda Ponton, senior management coordinator for San Antonio Healthy Start.
Ponton said if the program doesn’t reach families, there could be a rise in infant mortality. A lack of resources could add more stress and lead to a rise in domestic violence.
“We give mamas every bit of information, every resource that we can, to prevent an infant death,” Ponton said.
The program focuses on families living in 12 specific ZIP codes, which were identified based on the infant mortality rate.
“ZIP code 78242, which is in the South Side, District 4, that zip code has an infant mortality rate of 10.5. So that means that for the data period that we were using 2013 to 2015, for every 1,000 babies that were born in that ZIP code, 10 of those babies died,” Ponton said.
The program is reaching out to families living in the 12 designated ZIP codes by posting on social media and getting referrals from current and past participants.
Since April 2019, the program has helped 193 moms and 33 dads.
The program is free, and to qualify, a woman has to be pregnant or have a baby under 6 months old and live in one of the designated codes to participate.
Lucia Briones is a participant and said it helped her during her pregnancy.
“I never knew that a baby had to sleep in a certain way,” Briones said.
“We do the safe sleep class. So that’s to prevent or reduce SIDS so that the child is sleeping safe and not co-sleeping with a parent,” said Rita Pacheco, a health programs specialist for San Antonio Healthy Start.