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  • Moms swap stories at county-led showcase event

    Nov 07, 2018 | Read More News
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    Think of all the things that get in the way of better health practices and accessing health care if you are a mom living in poverty. Transportation. Time. Trust. And almost always, you put someone or something else first: your children, your job, a crisis, your parents, your partner. 

    More than 100 people talked about those issues and more when they attended the Mothers in Arizona Moving Ahead (MAMA) Showcase, a year-long program that assists mothers and their children living in poverty. The program, developed by the Pima County Health Department and the county’s Community Services, Employment and Training Department, enables mothers to attend “Getting Ahead” classes in a safe learning environment where they explore the impact of poverty on themselves, their families, and their communities, assess their own resources, and plan new future stories. 

    MAMA graduates joined with health professionals and community partners Oct. 25 at the Abrams Public Health Center to discuss their journey investigating how to improve their health and improve MAMA Showcase displaysthe health care system that often doesn’t see their barriers and concerns. MAMA worked with six community organizations that were partners in the MAMA program:  the Community Food Bank, Amity Foundation and their Dragonfly Village campus, La Frontera’s Rally Point, Tucson Urban League and The Haven.  

    “I changed dramatically from being a part of the MAMA program,” said Ariane Davaul, a graduate from The Haven speaking on a panel.  “Before I didn’t think much about my health. It just wasn’t a priority. I had other worries – putting food on the table, keeping a roof over our heads. But thanks to MAMA, I’m more resourceful and I feel supported. I realized that if I don’t take care of myself, I can’t take care of my family.”

    Showcase visitors toured the “data room” that displayed detailed information on the program, watch one of the 13 videos produced by MAMA graduates, or listen to panels. As panelists, MAMA participants reflected on how the program impacted them, community partners and allies shared their experience, evaluators reviewed program outcomes, and experts on health equity discussed the importance of programs like MAMA.  

    “The system is designed with sinkholes,” said Sharon Browning, a member of the Health Department’s Health Equity team that is using MAMA as a way to better understand how to improve the health delivery system to reach the community’s most vulnerable members. “One misstep and you can find yourself in over your head.”

    Before, I thought what I said to a social worker, a nurse, or a doctor was in one ear and out the other,” said Alisa Aponte, a member of the first MAMA cohort from the Community Food Bank. “I was surprised that through the MAMA project, I was really heard and that I could make a difference.” 

    Since going through the MAMA program, Aponte has earned her GED, is paying bills on time, earned a culinary certificate, is facilitating Getting Ahead classes, and is volunteering in the community. Her family moved into a new home through a program of the Pima County Land Trust and now they are saving money. Aponte reflected on being a part of MAMA and participating on one of the panels at the Showcase: “I felt like I was somebody in the room of somebodies.”  

    Robert Cannon, the MAMA coordinator at Dragonfly Village, one of the program's community partners, said, "In 45 years of community work, this is one of the few programs where people can really improve their lives and move out of daily struggles."

    Jennifer Chancay, the Health Department’s Women, Infants and Child Program manager, said, “As a program manager, sitting at the table with clients is a powerful tool that can be used to inform client services. If we want to understand how best to serve our community, there is no more powerful way than to ask them, to listen to them and learn about their lives and their challenges.” She went on, “Together, we can think about ways that we can make both our work and their lives easier. This is a win-win.”

    Francisco Garcia, assistant county administrator and chief medical officer, agrees.  “Lifting children and families out of poverty is the most important thing that we can do to improve the health and well-being of this county,” he said. “This starts by empowering mothers with the skills they need to move themselves and their families forward.”  

    MAMA has 90 new applications, an indication of the interest in the program.  If you are interested in knowing more, contact Bonnie Bazata at 520-724-3704 or bonnie.bazata@pima.gov. MAMA is a project funded by the Vitalyst Foundation and Public Health National Center for Innovations