Public Health Students Collect Thousands of Diapers, Wipes for UAMS Head Start

By Kev' Moye

Taylor Washington, Todd Hamilton and Joanna Bartley are all members of the Master of Health Administration Student Association. The association promotes networking, professional development, community engagement and philanthropic opportunities.

Every December the association participates in the UAMS Head Start/Early Head Start Stuff the Stocking program. The initiative helps supply gifts for kids in the Head Start programs. However, in late 2021 when Clare Brown, Ph.D., MPH, went to register the association for the project, the program already had enough organizations signed up to provide gifts.

“I was happy that the kids were taken care of,” Brown said. “However, I knew that our students and the Health Policy and Management Department still wanted to do something for the UAMS Head Start/Early Head Start program.”

A conversation paved the way for the students to find the service project they were looking for.

Washington, the association’s philanthropy and fundraising officer, and Brown spoke with a coordinator of the program. During the discussion, Washington and Brown learned that clients of the UAMS Head Start/Early Head Start Pregnant Women Program often need diapers and wipes. That birthed the idea of the association leading a diaper drive for the program.

“Helping moms get diapers and wipes aligns with what we want to do as an organization,” Washington said. “Also, we wanted to support a UAMS project like the Pregnant Women Program. I’m happy we were able to do so.”

The Pregnant Women Program provides mothers with prenatal and postnatal education relating to nutrition, health care, mental health, food assistance, health insurance, substance abuse prevention and treatment, and social services. Women in the program must meet various federal eligibility guidelines.

One of the regulations is that a household of two cannot make more than a combined total of $17,420 a year. For the clients, affording pricy diapers and wipes can sometimes be tough.

That’s why the diaper drive – which lasted over a month – was important. The association collected 2,576 diapers and 1,320 baby wipes.

“We’re grateful for the students, faculty members and staff of the Master of Health Administration Department,” said Ivory Daniels, Head Start/Early Head Start program coordinator. “The pathway to school readiness starts with our pregnant moms getting the help they need.”

“For some, it’s their first experience as a mom,” he said.  “Our skilled home visitors work with new moms to ensure those basic needs are met, and one of the ways we do that is through community resources.”

Association members knew that people donating items to the program would quickly build steam. Most individuals have dealt with the financial burden of having to buy diapers and wipes.

“We felt that more people would participate if we found a relatable cause,” said Bartley, vice president of the association. “We realize that UAMS has a lot of employees and students who are parents. That’s why we decided to do the drive.”

Delivering the items to the center was a moment that Bartley will not forget.

“Dropping off the diapers and wipes was an eye-opening experience,” she said. “Everyone there thanked us and told us how much the moms are going to appreciate our help. Seeing how much UAMS is doing to help women in that program inspired me to continue volunteering in the community and to make a difference in the world.”

The drop-off day gave Washington confirmation that she – and the association – made a great decision having a diaper drive. Seeing the gratitude of the people helped her further realize how much of a need there are for diapers and wipes.

“It was nice to see some of the children that UAMS supports,” she said. “The people were constantly telling us how much they appreciated us. I could tell this was a big deal.”

One of the principles of public health is preventing widespread ailments. Diapers and wipes help to keep babies clean and healthy. Supplying the items to families was ideal, said Hamilton, president of the association.

“Our focus was to give back to people who need assistance,” said Hamilton. “As future health care leaders, we want to be good stewards of health in the community.”

Washington said the diaper drive is one of her favorite moments as a UAMS student. Helping clients of the Pregnant Women Program embodies why she’s interested in public health.

“In the College of Public Health, we often discuss the social determinants of health,” she said. “Health care extends beyond a hospital or a doctor’s office. Taking some of the financial stress off families is our way of helping their health and giving them a peace of mind.

“The mothers in the Pregnant Women Program are a part of our UAMS community. They expressed concerns about not being able to buy diapers and wipes,” Washington said. “As a student association we were happy to help alleviate a small fraction of those mothers’ worries through our diaper drive.”