How Is the Kellogg Foundation Improving Care for Pregnant Women at Risk?

If you're pregnant, carrying a child is pretty all-consuming. I say this as a pregnant woman myself. Fortunately for me, I have a great support network to help me through my pregnancy — good health care, a supportive partner, and a small army of friendly neighbors who leave bags of recently outgrown onesies at my door. These assets make my pregnancy relatively simple in the grand scheme of things, so I can relax and consider things nonpregnant people think about, like how I'm going to fill out my bracket for March Madness on Sunday.

But not all women are so lucky. I was reminded of this fact the other day when, on my neighborhood listserv, a teacher at a local high school asked if anyone could donate maternity shirts and khakis so that a local student had enough clothes to be able to attend class. And the student in question here is hardly alone. In a country where many women lack health insurance, paid maternity leave, and affordable childcare, expectant mothers often do not have sufficient community and emotional support, despite the physical and psychological demands of expecting a child.

The Centering Healthcare Institute in Boston aims to shift the way pregnant women, including pregnant teens, receive prenatal services through a form of care called "centering." Former nurse-midwife Sharon Schindler Rising devised the centering method in the 1990s. Its premise: comprehensive wellness care for small groups of pregnant women of similar gestation during the final six months of pregnancy and a period of time afterward. Essentially, while a woman is pregnant, she has a team of health-care professionals and pregnant cohorts that provide the physical and moral support necessary for healthy birth outcomes.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a childhood wellness philanthropy giant, sees promise in centering. The foundation recently granted some $600,000 to the Centering Healthcare Institute to "understand the needs of pregnant women at risk and the health systems serving them, through focus group research to improve the centering model of care." (See W.K. Kellogg Foundation: Grants for Public Health.) It will be interesting to see how the Centering Healthcare Institute uses WKKF's funding, and how broadly the organization is able to expand the availability of centering prenatal services beyond its own internal programs.

The Kellogg Foundation continues to accept grant proposals that promote childhood (and prenatal) health. Information on the funding application process is here. (Read WKKF Program Director Linda Jo Doctor's IP profile.)