Dr. Maureen Heaman
BY JOEL SCHLESINGER
Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, November / December 2012
Dr. Maureen Heaman began her career as a
maternal health nurse in 1978.
And maternal health has come a long way
since the late 1970s, says Heaman, a Canadian
Institutes of Health Research Chair in Gender
and Health. But for Winnipeg's lowest-income
mothers, there's still a long way to go.
That's the focus of Heaman's most recent
research: finding new ways to help at-risk,
expectant and new mothers - and their
newborns - get the health care they need.
"What we have found is there were high
rates of inadequate care in Inkster, Downtown
and Point Douglas, which are essentially
the inner city areas of Winnipeg," says the
professor at the University of Manitoba's
Faculty of Nursing.
Young mothers - teens in many cases
- with low incomes were most at risk, her
research found. Typically during a healthy
pregnancy, mothers have between 12 to 14
health-care visits during their pregnancy, but
mothers in the inner city, among the at-risk
group, often had four or fewer visits. And
many didn't seek medical attention until the
final stages of their pregnancy.
There is a reason why these women failed
to seek care, and it's not because they wanted
to have an unhealthy baby. Like all mothers,
most cared about getting the best care
possible, but they encountered several barriers
preventing them from doing so. "If you're a
young, single, pregnant mom - already with
kids - getting to prenatal care in the middle of
winter and then waiting awhile in the waiting
room is a tall order," she says. Moreover,
many mothers in the high-risk group did not
recognize the importance of getting regular
medical visits while pregnant.
To address the problem, Heaman is
partnering with the Winnipeg Health
Region and Healthy Child Manitoba, among
others, to implement three new initiatives to
improve access to prenatal care. One of these
initiatives involves integrating midwives into
six Healthy Baby/Healthy Start community-based
prenatal programs in low-income
neighbourhoods. She says it's all about
meeting women where they live.
"It's about being proactive, and seeing that
they get the care they need."
Back to "Leading the way"
Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.
Read the November / December 2012 issue of Wave