Good health is central to the quality of life for both individuals and communities. It is, arguably, the most important single determinant of a person’s overall well-being. While good health cannot be ensured, the opportunity to be healthy can be maximized through the steps taken by individuals, families, and communities.

This fundamental need area is entitled “maternal AND child’ health with a specific intent. Child health begins before birth, and is dependent on the health of the mother, even before she becomes pregnant. Access and utilization of prenatal care has vast implications for child health, nutrition and overall well-being.

As with virtually every indicator of child well-being in St. Louis, there are vast disparities in the health status of children in this metropolitan region. These disparities are driven in large part by access to health care, with barriers to care coming in many forms, including the cost of services, geographic proximity to services and transportation issues, and cultural issues involving both the providers and recipients of health care.

Many specific health concerns, both locally and nationally, affect the quality of life of at-risk populations. There are environmental health concerns, like lead poisoning and the general safety and state of repair of homes and neighborhoods. There are health issues with a behavioral component, such as weight and nutrition. There are issues that can have effects on entire family systems such as substance abuse and untreated mental heath concerns.

There is good news however: community-based strategies to affect health outcomes for mothers and children are measurably successful. Decades of community-based interventions have proven their effectiveness, leading the community at large to generally be more supportive of new initiatives.