Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 22, Issue 12, pp 1693–1697 | Cite as

An Unexpected, Yet Welcomed Outcome of the St. Louis Healthy Start Program

  • Darcell P. ScharffEmail author
  • Keri Jupka
  • Lora Gulley
  • Kate Kasper
  • Ellen Barnidge
From the Field


Introduction Racial disparities in birth outcomes are a significant problem in the U.S. The St. Louis Healthy Start (SLHS) program, funded for 14 years, had a goal of reducing disparate rates of poor birth outcomes in three disadvantaged communities in the St. Louis area. The Making Change Happen Leadership Academy (MCHLA) was an unanticipated community-driven effort that grew out of SLHS and continues today. The primary goal of the MCHLA is to empower women to gain mastery over their lives and use their power to improve birth outcomes in their communities. Methods Qualitative interviews were conducted with MCHLA participants to determine the impact of participation in the MCHLA on their leadership skills and attitudes. Results Participants reported positive attitudes about themselves including increased confidence and improved parenting skills. Through active participation in project work, they noted increased professional and advocacy skills and recognition of the importance of their voice. As leaders, they recognized the importance of giving and receiving emotional, tangible, and information social support. The small sample prevents us from confidently reporting that findings directly relate to the MCHLA. Discussion Leaders exist in all communities. Public health practitioners may help enhance and develop leaders with tangible support. We need to encourage more MCHLA type programs while systematically evaluating their impact on empowerment in underserved women.


Birth outcomes Disparities Empowerment Leadership Qualitative methods 



The funding was supported by Health Resources and Services Administration (Grant No. H49MC05017).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College for Public Health and Social Justice, Salus CenterSaint Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Emerson YMCASt. LouisUSA
  3. 3.Generate HealthSt. LouisUSA

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