DANVILLE, KY -- Sarah Parsons, a Centre College senior from Lexington, has been honored by the college as February Volunteer of the Month for a project devoted to childbirth education at the Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center in Danville.
A three-year volunteer at the hospital, Parsons began assisting childbirth educator Shirley McKinley as an outgrowth of a women's studies class at Centre. She and another student in the class, Angie Nottingham of Harned, noticed that the videos and literature used for childbirth classes tended to ignore the varied ages and socioeconomic backgrounds of the expectant mothers.
"We saw a lot of types of expectant mothers: teens, single women, low-income women," says Parsons, "yet all the videos portrayed expectant mothers as being middle-class women in their 20s and 30s, accompanied by supportive husbands. The women who didn't fit that profile saw little that supported their situations."
Parsons says this is more than a problem of appearance. "We found research showing that teen or single mothers are less likely to follow through on good prenatal care, and other research showing that lack of such care is linked to greater incidence of medical complications."
To help the hospital better serve non-traditional expectant mothers, Parsons and Nottingham began searching for alternative resources that might be available to McKinley for free or at a low cost. They contacted more than 20 companies and organizations that deal with childbirth education, asking about videos and literature depicting teen mothers, single mothers and Spanish-speaking women.
Parsons says the response has been gratifying. "We have received catalogs listing useful videos, reports on research on childbirth education, and information on relevant government programs and grants. The most promising information was about a government agency that apparently has a lending library of videos especially designed for teen mothers and single mothers."
Parsons says McKinley has been supportive of the project and is receptive to ideas that will improve childbirth education at the hospital.
Nottingham graduated from Centre at the end of winter term with a biology major and is working at a physical therapy clinic in Lexington. Parsons is majoring in biochemistry/molecular biology, and she plans a career as a physician. She believes her recent project will help her appreciate the challenge of serving a wide variety of patients. Parsons is a graduate of Dunbar High School, and her parents are Greg and Sally Parsons.
As a Centre volunteer of the month, Parsons will receive a framed certificate and be treated to lunch by a group of Centre employees.
The college launched the volunteer award program to show appreciation to the many students who provide service to the local community. Each year, around 60 percent of all Centre students become community volunteers. The college encourages voluntary service by planning a community service day each year for all first-year students. Ann Young serves the campus as director of volunteer service.
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