by Mary K. Comtois, Program Director, Health Initiatives United Way of Buffalo & Erie County and Kelly Dixon, Senior Transportation Planner, Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council
For the first time, professionals in Buffalo, NY helping moms deliver healthy babies and experts on transportation are working together to address a serious problem – our city’s rates of poor birth outcomes. Babies born in Buffalo have a 25% greater chance of being born pre-term compared with the New York State average, and the immediate costs are staggering: the first year medical costs for a full term, healthy baby are $17k, compared with over $76k for a premature birth. That’s a difference of nearly $60k just in health care costs for the first year.
A Fresh Approach - Human Centered Design
The National Center for Mobility Management’s (NCMM) Health Care Mobility Access Design Challenge’s focus on human-centered design principles gave our team the framework we needed to create an innovative solution for accessing preventive, prenatal healthcare. Nearly 30% of Buffalo women do not access prenatal care in their first trimester. From focus groups with low-income pregnant women, we knew that transportation was a significant barrier to accessing the prenatal care they need.
Our team immediately set out to interview patients at clinics serving low-income families to zero in on the specific transportation barriers facing patients in order to develop solutions that would meet people where they were and offer opportunities for long-lasting change in their lives. Numerous solution building sessions – focusing on customer desirability, solution operability, and financial sustainability – were employed to develop our transportation solution for moms-to-be. Once we had a program framework in hand, we brought it back to patients at the clinic so we could co-create the solutions and finetune the details. To make sure we got it right, our team members made additional visits to the clinics and continuously incorporated patient feedback to improve the final product. Along the way, operating partners and local funders also gave us feedback on the feasibility and viability of our solutions. NCMM gave us the tools to frame these conversations with stakeholders and to build a business plan and sales pitch. The end result this human-centered design process undertaken our cross-sector collaboration is GO Buffalo Mom – a simple solution to this complicated and serious problem.
Making Transportation Accessible and Affordable
GO Buffalo Mom will connect pregnant women with transportation and financial education, helping them access healthcare and save for the future. Trained transportation navigators will work together with pregnant women to decide the best route to their doctor’s office, figure out how to cover the cost of this travel and consider how to fold other visits into this trip, like visits to the pharmacy or grocery store. The transportation savings program is an additional component to GO Buffalo Mom. This financial education piece of the program will help families save money and find ways to reduce the cost of transportation. Our goal is that women who take part in this will be able to afford monthly transportation passes.
Besides improving the lives of families, the program will save money. Although the program can serve 500 families, we would only need to prevent five pre-term births to balance out the annual program cost. Simply put, the first year healthcare costs of preterm births are so high, that just five fewer would save around $300k a year. If changing birth outcomes for five women offsets the cost of the program, just imagine the impact of reaching 500 pregnant women in our community. GO Buffalo Mom has the potential to change the lives of an entire cohort of our city’s newest generation and the design team is actively seeking opportunities to implement the program.
View the recording of us pitching our idea (we were the last to give our pitch) and learn more about GO Buffalo Mom and other solutions developed under NCMM's Health Care Access Mobility Design Challenge.