Health professionals from the Netherlands visit the Magnolia Project

The Magnolia Project, the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition’s nationally-recognized preconception health initiative, welcomed two international maternal and child health experts from the Netherlands for a tour on March 13th, 2017.17265041_1427116503976938_5517774720014864023_n

Eric A.P. Steegers, MD, PhD and Regine P.M. Steegers-Theunissen, MD, PhD, from the university-affiliated medical center Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, Netherlands toured the Magnolia Project and met with several Coalition staff and partners to learn about the local efforts to improve women’s health.

Dr. Steegers is a professor and chair of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, while Dr. Steegers-Theunissen is a professor of periconception epidemiology in the Obstetrics and Gynecology and Pediatrics departments.

The tour began in the Magnolia office space, where the Dutch doctors met with staff and learned about the work that the Magnolia does from a community and case management perspective. Community Action Network Coordinator Vanessa Jefferson, discussed how she and community partners meet the participants of the Magnolia Project where they are to supply them with what they need, while Case Manager Anna Matthews, talked about the importance of building relationships with participants.

17309045_1427114753977113_443723927138479211_nDr. Steegers and Dr. Steegers-Theunissen were then given an inside look at the clinical portion of the Magnolia Project, followed by a quick discussion on why preconception health sites, like the Magnolia Project,  are important for women living in Health Zone 1. The clinic offers women birth control, STD testing, as well as prenatal care and information on how to have a healthy pregnancy in an easy-to-access storefront in the community.

The tour continued to the Magnolia Project OASIS where Freedom Coach Sabrina Willis discussed the importance of dealing with toxic stress and how initiatives like Yoga in the Streets are a way for women to cope and relax.

“It’s very interesting that you all implement Yoga into the work that you do here” Dr. Steegers-Theunissen said. “I love that you all address toxic stress and ways to reduce it. It is all so very important to healthy preconception.”17342934_1427114013977187_4694749208964873762_n

Dr. Steegers-Theunissen and Dr. Steegers both gave a presentation to staff and Jersey College nursing students about the importance of including the partner in healthy decision making.

“We developed an app that teaches nutrition and encourages its users to make better health decisions as related to preconception” Dr. Steegers-Theunissen said. “Ninety percent of the pregnancies in the Netherlands are planned, and with launching this app in 2011, we learned that women are more likely to make better health decisions when their partner is included in the process.”

The Magnolia Project was launched in 1999 to address an identified gap in Jacksonville’s system of maternal and child health services – pre- and interconception health. A woman’s health prior to pregnancy was identified through the NEFL Fetal & Infant Mortality Review and Perinatal Periods of Risk model as having the greatest impact on birth outcomes in Jacksonville’s Health Zone 1, which had the region’s highest infant mortality rate at the time. While Jacksonville still has a high infant mortality rate and significant racial disparities, today more babies in Health Zone 1 are living to see their first birthday.