The Allentown Children’s Health Improvement Project (ACHIP) was launched in 2016 thanks to a $1.91 million, 30-month grant from The Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust. The new program brings together Lehigh Valley Health Network’s Department of Community Health and Women and Children’s services along with the Children’s Hospital at Lehigh Valley Hospital, and Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley in a partnership. The program’s primary goal is to improve the health of pregnant women and young children in Center City Allentown through home visits for early intervention. A staff of bilingual community health workers from the neighborhood surrounding the Neighborhood Improvement Zone operates out of PNLV’s Allentown Promise Neighborhood office in downtown Allentown. APN uses its strong relationship with downtown residents to connect parents with young children and pregnant women to the ACHIP services.
The health workers are embedded in the community they serve in order to better cultivate relationships with residents, leading to trust of the local healthcare system, which is a critical component to the program’s success with this at-risk population. Here is a profile on one of them – Jamie Santana.
1. What made you want to work on the ACHIP program?
For the past five years I have worked as a Community Health Worker with the Department of Community Health at LVHN on an asthma program that assisted families and children ages 1-14 years old. I provided families with education on asthma medication, and assisted in the referral process to local organizations depending on the need.
What made me want to work with ACHIP is because it assists pregnant women and families with children from birth to age 5. I had already been familiar with this population and recognized that there are many young parents in Allentown in need of parenting education and guidance. I thought this would be another opportunity to continue making a difference in family’s lives. There are so many families that are broken and in need of guidance, as well as someone to trust.
2. What interests you most about the work you do in the community through the ACHIP program?
I enjoy listening to people’s life story. Each person has a story to tell about their life and the things they have experienced, both negative and positive. Each story is unique and I have the opportunity to take their story and express to families how some of the struggles they have encountered still have a purpose and could be used for good. These families have real struggles in their day to day life. Most feel like their stuck and can’t move forward. Others have been labelled, rejected and told they have no worth. My job is to help them see past all of that and find their purpose if not for themselves than for their children. Ultimately its empowering families to make changes to have better outcomes and look back to see how far they have come and they worked hard and can say “I did it!”
3. Since the home visitations started, what types of things have you been able to help the new moms and moms-to-be about with when it comes to caring for themselves and/or their child?
There are so many needs that families have. One is not having enough baby formula. I had to assist a mom who just had her newborn and WIC was not answering their phones for a week. I had a stock in my office that had been given to me before the program began because I knew this would be an issue for families.