Parents Form Community Inside Medical Home through CenteringParenting® Program
“It’s really an incredible model, you’re drawing out of the parent and empowering them to harness what they already know and key into that maternal or parental instinct,” said Dr. Michelle Gallas, Pediatrician at CommUnityCare Health Centers. “So, the idea is that families form a community inside of the medical home.”
Parenthood has its ups and downs, especially for first-time mothers. New mothers often face symptoms of depression and stress as they adjust to parenthood. The CenteringParenting® Program is a group-focused approach offered at CommUnityCare Health Centers that better helps meet the health and social needs of patients who often face barriers when accessing healthcare.
“This is the first time I have come to a doctor who has this type of program,” said Maria Angela Estrada, a mother and patient participating in the CenteringParenting® Program. “I love the idea. I believe it is something really beautiful that takes place here.”
The group-focused care model is designed to host around six to eight dyads, or pairs of parents and their babies for routine health maintenance visits. Parents and babies are grouped together based on age increments, often one-month blocks. The group of similarly aged babies and their caregivers will meet ten times over the course of three years.
“This program brings a tremendous amount of value not just to the families but also to the providers,” said Dr. Michelle Gallas, lead Pediatrician who has been running groups for the last decade at Community Care. “These families are able to build confidence, achieve better health outcomes, and form a connection with their providers, like no other.”
Program visits are made up of three components: assessment, education and support. Upon arrival, babies receive a physical exam that includes vitals, developmental surveillance, screenings and immunizations. Then a facilitated discussion of infant and parenting related topics takes place led by providers and support staff. Finally, support or community within the medical home is built throughout the sessions.
“The key word here is facilitation. We are offering up the question and they [parents] are the experts. They are sharing challenges, doubts and advice with each other,” added Dr. Gallas. “We offer our expert opinion when needed, but really want the best advice come from other mothers so families really get the chance to feel like they are not alone.”
As part of the CenteringParenting® Program, mothers are also able to stay engaged in their own healthcare. The wellness visits and discussions offer a touch point to check in with mom and keep them engaged in their well-being. Mothers are provided follow up care such as well-woman exams, post-partum visits, family planning including birth control options and financial assistance.
“When I have any doubts and I get a response, I feel relieved because there are things I don’t know as a first time mom,” said Melani Navarro Hernandez, a mother and patient participating in the CenteringParenting® Program. “The moms in the group who already have children are able to answer my questions about things such as breastfeeding and sleeping schedule. I love it.”
CenteringParenting® and CenteringPregnancy® Programs have been implemented into the care model at CommUnityCare Health Centers since 2009. The pandemic caused a hiatus, but the programs have recently made a return in the health centers and are growing. CenteringParenting® is an extension of the CenteringPregnancy ® Program, a similar group-focused model to discuss various topics with pregnant women and their healthcare providers.
If you are an established patient at CommUnityCare Health Centers, please connect with your OB Care Coordinator at 512-978-9435 if you are interested in learning more about CenteringPregnancy® and CenteringParenting® Programs. Information is also available at FindHelp.org.
The CenteringParenting® Program is offered at the CommUnityCare Pflugerville and North Central Health Centers. CenteringPregnancy® is offered at the CommUnityCare East Austin and North Central Health Centers.