GO Buffalo Mom
Change Starts with unlikely partnerships.
Preterm birth is when a baby is born too early, before 37 weeks of gestation. It’s not always easy to predict who will experience preterm birth. Some people who have significant risk factors go on to have a healthy birth, and sometimes those without risk factors will still experience preterm birth. There are two things we know for certain though, those with significant risk factors are more likely to experience preterm birth and systemic inequities within our community heavily contribute to increased risk factors for some people. The bottom line, the system as it stands is broken and fixing broken systems takes having all the right partners at the table.
Erie County has a higher than average rate of preterm birth, which can cause a myriad of physical and cognitive problems. Due to deeply rooted systemic inequities in health care, preterm birth adversely affects those living in financial hardship and people of color. While there is no one way to fix preterm birth, we do know an easy way to reduce preterm risk is to ensure that pregnant people have access to prenatal care as early in their pregnancy as possible. However, for many people in our community, there are multiple barriers to accessing the necessary care such as transportation, healthcare affordability, housing – and even things as simple as clothes appropriate for our local weather.
Human-Centered Design & Unlikely Partners
When we set out to reduce premature births, it not only meant convening health care, housing and transportation providers. We also needed to build this program around the experiences of those it would serve. To develop this program, United Way used something called human-centered design. Put simply, this means we listened to the people this program intended to help and let them tell us what they needed for it to be successful.
On one particularly cold February day, our team went to Sisters Hospital and spoke with many expecting parents to discuss what barriers they had to accessing prenatal care. One mother we spoke with knew how vital prenatal care was to her baby. In fact, she felt it was so important that she walked to Sisters Hospital from her home in Cheektowaga on one of the coldest days of the year without a proper coat or boots.
She walked because her ride fell through and she didn’t have the $2 bus fare, let alone enough money to buy a winter coat. But she still found a way to get to her appointment because she wanted the best possible birth outcome for her and her child. We heard stories like this over and over again, and it was these stories that helped us ensure we had all the right resources at the table when developing GO Buffalo Mom.
After speaking with the people this program would be designed to serve, it was clear we would need representatives from local health care agencies, housing and transportation. We also knew these weren’t partners who were necessarily used to working together. But through our United Way coalition, we were able to bring together partners from all these industries. Competing health systems Catholic Health & Kaleida Health came together with Buffalo Prenatal - Perinatal Network (BPPN), Belmont Housing Resources for WNY, Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) to build GO Buffalo Mom.
GO Buffalo Mom 2019 & Beyond
Since 2019, GO Buffalo Mom has served over 550 low-income pregnant women in Buffalo & Erie County, helping them get to and from prenatal visits, build financial skills, and secure safe housing for themselves and their newborns. Through the support of Transportation Navigators and financial coaches, GO Buffalo Mom helps mothers overcome barriers in accessing prenatal care and get babies off to the best start.
GO Buffalo Mom matches soon-to-be mothers with transportation navigators who help develop the least expensive, most reliable, and shortest public transportation routes to health care appointments. The program also provides financial education and savings programs to help pregnant moms manage their expenses, save for better housing and meet transportation needs.
For mothers like Siera, GO Buffalo Mom was all that kept her baby from being born into a family with no home. Well into her third trimester, Sierra and her husband were homeless and living in a shelter in the city of Buffalo. But through the financial and housing supports provided by GO Buffalo Mom, Siera’s growing family was able to save enough money and secure an apartment by the time their baby was born.
Once the program was off the ground and helping pregnant people all over Erie County, more organizations signed on to help. Univera Healthcare provided additional funds to provide the expectant person with transportation passes so they are able to get to and from prenatal appointments, the pharmacy, etc. Funding from the Health Foundation of Western and Central New York’s Co-Creating Well-being program is allowing for creative solutions to support GO Buffalo Mom families impacted by toxic stress and trauma caused by factors such as poverty and racial discrimination. Working with trauma experts from University at Buffalo and Daemen College UWBEC is participating in a research project to assist medical staff in engaging in self care so that they are able to sustain trauma informed care at their OBGYN facilities, further assisting families participating in GO Buffalo Mom. GO Buffalo Mom has also expanded to include two additional OBGYN practices.
Since 2022 United Way of Buffalo and Erie County has helped our trusted partner Buffalo Prenatal-Perinatal Network to take over sustaining the Go Buffalo Mom program so that UWBEC can pilot other innovative programs that address additional community needs.