By Melisa Meza, Maternal Upstream Management (MUM) Project Coordinator, HOPE Clinic
July 22, 2020
The Alief neighborhood in southwestern Harris County is home to one of Houston’s most diverse populations. Immigrants, refugees, middle- and working-class families contribute to a strong identity here. As project coordinator for the Maternal Upstream Management (MUM) project serving the Alief community, our main goal is to address not just the immediate health of women and their families but the contributing factors that influence it.
We know that holistic health encompasses social and environmental determinants long before the women come into the doctor’s office. The fairly new MUM project hopes to use a cross-sector collaboration to create an environment in which Alief women and their families feel empowered to access whatever services they need pertaining to their health.
The BUILD Health Challenge
The BUILD Health Challenge is a nationally recognized group of leaders working together to strengthen partnerships—between community-based organizations, hospitals and health systems, and local health departments to reduce health disparities and create opportunities for improved community health.
Alief Super Neighborhood Council has been fortunate to have taken on this project with the support of BUILD and supportive partners because we believe that family health is a pillar for a successful community. In alignment with BUILD principles, we believe in Bold, Upstream, Integrated, Local, Data-driven approaches.
Think of MUM as the missing puzzle piece in connecting the community to an array of resources. When a woman comes to us, we can help connect her to family planning, prenatal care, parenting education as well as community engagement, safety, and employment opportunities. For example, if a woman needs food security, we can link her to the Food Rx program in partnership with HOPE Clinic and Houston Food Bank. Or if a woman is a first-time mother, we can connect her to support groups and prenatal care.
Our aim is to empower women to become advocates for accessing the services they need as soon as they need them. This definitely is not as simple as it sounds.
I recently moved to Houston from Los Angeles. While Los Angeles has its own uniquely diverse population, Houston and Alief in particular have opened my eyes to so much more. During the COVID-19 crisis, I have been helping to triage patients within HOPE Clinic.
The Beauty of Connection
I have experienced the language barriers although I am bilingual in Spanish and English, the patients here speak many other languages and dialects from Rohingya to Arabic to Burmese. It’s beautiful. We are lucky to have interpretation services to help us continue to connect with our patients. Even still, language and cultural barriers present just one way communities of color often struggle to access health care or social services.
One unique thing about this project is that we meet you where you are. We understand not all our community members have a reliable source of transportation, and it is important to us to meet them where they are. The work we do here is to eliminate as many barriers for women before and during their pregnancy, so we can improve not only their outcomes but the outcomes of future families of Alief.
Honestly, without the health of our women and their families, Alief cannot be a complete community. Right now, the project is still in its early stages. We are looking to build the base of Community Advocates that reflect the community in all its diversity, specifically passionate people who can speak multiple languages and whom members can look at and see themselves.
MUM is currently partnered with HOPE Clinic, City of Houston WIC, Healthy Women Houston (HWH), Community Health Choice and HCA Houston West. We welcome organizations or interested partners to join our efforts.
If you or someone who you know are seeking to be a part of this collaborative group or if you would like to refer a client, please reach out to me, Melisa, or call 832.304.4749.