COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Virginia Berry White realizes how critically important her work is as Director of the Low Country Healthy Start and Family Solutions of the Low Country Program. She says the work is essential, life-changing, important and difficult.
That's because for the past 20 years, White and her team have worked with many of the country's sickest and poorest mothers. In their five-county service area of Allendale, Hampton,Bamberg, Barnwell and Orangeburg, White says many rural mothers endure a toxic deadly combination of risks like poverty, limited education, very limited transportation and limited access to the health care needed to deliver healthy babies.
And many of these moms-to-be face chronic health conditions resulting, too often, with newborn infants who struggle for survival. Without intervention some of those babies die.
Since 1997 when White and her team began working to address growing infant mortality in South Carolina's poorest rural areas, the team has lived through many of the rural South's major economic changes resulting in hospital closures, factories closing, more people becoming unemployed or underemployed and uninsured.
She's seen needed medical and health services move away. Still, the group has worked with and garnered success under harsh and unlikely conditions.
"We've had to think outside the box and try non-traditional approaches to service our client-base in the rural Lowcountry," says White. "We find it's the simple approaches like making phone calls, helping clients navigate complicated social service and healthcare systems, making routine home visits, providing educational information that changes behavior or providing rides to doctor's appointments that make a difference. We work with the
woman where she is. We work with her chosen medical providers, her family and we continue to work with her after the birth of her infant."
One of the many strategic things White has accomplished is bringing the Nurse-Family Partnership Program under the Family Solutions of the Low Country umbrella. It is a national program which earned recognition for improving infant health by pairing nurses with first-time, low-income pregnant moms who need help. Nurses meet their assigned mothers at home several times each month throughout pregnancy, and then after delivery until their babies
turn two years old.
Low Country Healthy Start, the hallmark program of Family Solutions of the Low Country, will begin celebrating its 20th anniversary Friday, September 8th during the 10th Annual Infant Mortality Awareness and Scholarship Luncheon at the Edisto Fork United Methodist Church Christian Family Life Center. The luncheon will recognize key volunteers for their service, program participants for their diligence and work in overcoming the many, many
obstacles that confront them, along with celebrating former clients who have graduated from the program.
For tickets or more information, call 803-531-8008. WIS TV's Von Gaskin will be the luncheon emcee.