Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies opens new office and mobile clinic in Kailua-Kona
Hawai‘i County was identified in a newly released data by the March of Dimes as the worst county in the state in providing quality maternal and infant care.
The nonprofit — established in 1938 and dedicated to maternal and infant health — gave Hawai‘i County an “F” grade, citing its premature birth rate as worst in the state at 11.7%. The March of Dimes also found that mothers and infants are most vulnerable to poor pregnancy outcomes and pregnancy-related deaths on the Big Island.
One reason is the lack of access to health care, according to Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of Hawai’i.
In an effort to change that, the coalition has launched a new Kailua-Kona-based office and a Mana Mama mobile clinic, its second in the state.
This expansion will support pregnant, postpartum and birthing women and their families who experience limited access to maternal and infant care.
“When we’re talking about moving the needle and having healthier moms, healthier babies, healthier families, and really getting to the hardest hit homes, it brought us here,” said Sunny Chen, the clinic’s executive director. “We’re blessed to be able to provide services here and hopefully help move that needle.”
Because of the March of Dimes’ report, Chen said it made obvious sense for them to expand their organization to the Big Island.
Amy Feeley-Austin, president of Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies, said there is an unmet need for perinatal health education, child birth education and lactation support on the Big Island.
“There’s an unmet need for moms who just need the companionship of other moms,” Feeley-Austin said. “That can all be met by Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies.”
The organization aims to improve maternal and child health outcomes for residents across Hawai’i Island through this new venture. The new clinic has opened at Kuakini Tower, 75-5722 Kuakini Highway, Suite 212 in Kona.
On Feb. 10, Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies hosted a launch event and blessing with board members, staff, funders, key partners and community representatives. In attendance were partners Philips, Ohana Health Plan, AlohaCare, Hale Kipa, Hawai’i Island Community Health Center, JNM Medical, Nest for Families and local community health workers from various organizations.
Chen anticipates the mobile clinic will serve North Kona as well as the fishing village of Miloli‘i. It will be operational four days per week and by appointment only until permanent staff can be hired on Hawai‘i Island.
Chen said the clinic also will take referrals from its community partners.
In 2021, Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies launched its first mobile clinic on Oʻahu, and has provided care to more than 4,000 moms, babies and their families.
“We piloted our mobile clinic on Oʻahu and based on its immense success, we are replicating the model on Hawai’i Island where access to care is limited,” Chen said. “We provide culturally-anchored programs through a community-based midwifery model of care. We drive our van directly to where people are, ensuring equitable access to care.”
Like its predecessor, the organization’s new van is solar and battery powered and has been retrofitted with a patient bed, hand-washing station, toilet and vaccine refrigerator. It also has fetal monitoring and ultrasound capabilities.
The clinic on wheels is equipped with 4 wheel drive, a shower and other technological capabilities so that staff can traverse across the rugged terrain on Hawai’i Island.
At least two patients at a time can be accommodated in the van. Staff can perform prenatal and postpartum visits, well-mom exams and reproductive health screenings, infant checks, vaccination administration and more.
As the organization expands its presence on the island, families will have access to a nurse practitioner, doulas, certified midwife, lactation specialists, as well as connection to social services.
The nonprofit organization’s expansion was made possible thanks to funding from AlohaCare, Direct Relief, Hawaiʻi Public Health Institute, the Hawaiʻi Department of Health and the Trotula Fund.
Discounted services were provided by Philips, Nuvo, Stewardship Design, JPG Hawaiʻi, Sunworks Construction, Kapahulu Auto, Battery Bill, Universal Manufacturers and La Mesa RV. Key partners include Kona Community Hospital, Hawai’i Island Community Health Center, Aloha Medical Mission and HMSA.
For more information about Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies, visit hmhb-hawaii.org.