Health ambassadors educate parents about having safe, healthy babies
Farrah Hernandez has two children — a son, age 19, and a daughter, 17.
Now, the 36-year-old Wilmington woman is expecting her third child, and she learned important new information about pregnancy and caring for a baby from Christiana Care Health System’s specially trained team of health ambassadors, who guide families on the path to good health.
“When I gave birth to my daughter, it was common to put babies to sleep on their side,” Hernandez said. “Today, I learned that babies should always sleep on their backs.”
Christiana Care leads a citywide team of health ambassadors in partnership with Bellevue Community Center, Henrietta Johnson Medical Center and Westside Family Healthcare. Health ambassadors connect pregnant women and new parents to health care, social services, education and home health visiting programs.
Now in its third year, the Health Ambassadors program educates Delawareans in their communities and at dozens of events year-round. In July, ambassadors promoted the benefits of breastfeeding and the importance of safe sleep to the 170 parents and parents-to-be at a special community baby shower at Bayard Middle School in Wilmington, held by partners Christiana Care Health System, Child Inc., Saint Francis Healthcare and the Delaware Division of Public Health.
At the event, Health Ambassador Shirley Ibrahimovic connected mothers-to-be with Cribs 4 Kids, which provides families with free portable cribs so babies have a safe place to sleep. She explained that sharing a bed with an infant is never safe, because it greatly increases the risk of suffocation. Additionally, breastfeeding reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by 50 percent.
“We explain to parents that they can stay close to their babies by having them in the same room with them, but not in the same bed,” Ibrahimovic said.
Easily identifiable in their bright purple shirts, Christiana Care’s health ambassadors partner with community members to help them achieve optimal health, said Omar Khan, medical director for Community Health and the Eugene duPont Preventive Medicine & Rehabilitation Institute at Christiana Care. “They embody The Christiana Care Way by connecting patients to care in ways that patients value,” Dr. Khan said.
The Women’s and Children’s Leadership Council, a group of highly engaged volunteers who support Christiana Care’s efforts to improve the health of women and children, donated gifts and prizes for the baby shower, including breast pumps and baby clothes for attendees who participated in health screenings.
“We looked for items that will help parents to give their babies a good start in life,” said Barbara Burd, co-chair of the council, who volunteered at the event.
Nicole Obiesie, 20, is expecting a baby girl in October. She had lots of questions about breastfeeding for the health ambassadors.
“How do I know the baby is getting enough? Will my breasts keep their shape? How will I manage things after I go back to work?” she asked. “It was very reassuring to get answers to all my questions.”
Health Ambassador Venus Jones encouraged attendees to take what they learned into their lives as new families.
“This is knowledge that will help to keep your babies safe and healthy,” Jones said.