Before an audience of 100 university and high school students, public health professionals, community leaders and residents, UIC School of Public Health graduate Dr. Jennifer Hebert-Beirne presented findings of her collaborative study with the Family Learning Center. She identified several issues that adolescent mothers face as they attempt to navigate the health care system for their children.
Alderman Billy Ocasio welcomed everyone to the October 7th event, held at La Estancia at California and Division. UIC Dean Paul Brandt-Rauf spoke of the importance of making research useful to communities, and this was affirmed by PRCC Executive Director Jose Lopez who reminded us of the role of the Militant Observer in using research to facilitate positive social change and personal freedom. Lolita Lopez, MPH, a community member and Research Associate at the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition and Veronica Crespo-Rich, Director of the Family Learning Center, provided context in describing the lives of adolescent mothers. They elaborated on personal and system-level reasons why young mothers may experience challenges in accessing quality health care for their children.
Dr. Michele Kelley, who was an advisor for the study, concluded that while we need to address racial and ethnic health inequities in access to quality care, we can’t just depend on the system to change; and young women can be helped to become advocates for themselves, their families and their community through culturally sensitive health literacy and advocacy programs that put them in the center of community health improvement. State Representative Cynthia Soto thanked everyone and promised to continue fighting for quality health care for the entire community.