The state of Kentucky has won a $7.5 million federal grant to continue a program that helps nurture young families and promote healthy child development.

The money will support the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Visiting Program, which is commonly known as Kentucky’s HANDS program, according to the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

The HANDS, or Health Access Nurturing Development Services, program primarily serves low-income families, from the prenatal period through the first few years of life.

According to the cabinet, pregnant moms and new parents can request home visits and seek advice on how to create a safe, healthy environment for their children’s growth and development, usually continuing to age 2 or 3. The program strives to decrease maternal complications in pregnancy, lower the incidence of child abuse and neglect and reduce premature deliveries and low birth-weight babies, officials said.

“We are grateful to HRSA for supporting our ongoing commitment to the health and well-being of Kentucky’s children and families by awarding the state this much-needed funding,” the state’s public health commissioner, Dr. Jeffrey Howard, said in a news release.

The HANDS program helps moms-to-be and new parents create safe, healthy environments for their children’s growth and development. | Pixabay

The Annie E. Casey Foundation recently released a report, in conjunction with Kentucky Youth Advocates, highlighting the need to provide more support for young parents and their children. As part of that effort, KYA recommended, among other things, involving more young parents in the HANDS program, noting that it “teaches critical parenting skills to new parents to create a healthier and more supportive home environment for their children.”

In fiscal year 2017, Kentucky’s HANDS program served more than 4,000 participants in more than 2,300 households and provided more than 55,500 home visits, according to the cabinet.

The new grant is among about $361 million in funding recently awarded to 56 states, territories, and nonprofit organizations by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

Laura Kavanagh, acting associate administrator of HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau, praised the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Visiting Program.

The program “helps parents and caregivers connect with services and resources and empowers families with the tools they need to thrive,” Kavanagh said in a news release. “The program’s two-generation approach is aimed at improving the well-being of both parents and children across the life span, leading to healthier and stronger families and communities.”

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Darla Carter
Darla Carter is a hometown girl who recently joined the staff of Insider Louisville to mostly cover health. She previously served as a longtime health and fitness writer for The Courier-Journal, where she also worked for the Metro, Neighborhoods and Features departments. Prior to that, the award-winning journalist wrote for newspapers elsewhere in Kentucky and Tennessee, covering a range of topics, from education to courts. She's a graduate of Western Kentucky University, where she studied journalism and philosophy, and is the proud mom of two young children.