By Christa Davis and Dr. Maria Lourdes F. Reyes
We’ve all experienced the discomfort of a hygiene “incident”: running out of soap before showering, forgetting to brush our teeth, or needing to change our baby’s diaper only to realize we’ve used the last diaper in the pack! These occurrences are annoying, but also manageable.
But what happens when accessing basic hygiene products and necessities is an everyday struggle? This is the reality millions of mothers, children and families across the world, including the United States.
Nearly one in three low-income families find it difficult to afford basic household necessities and nearly three in four low-income families report cutting back on food in order to afford household goods in the United States.
 In order to make ends meet, these families report having to bathe without soap, reuse diapers and wash only the children’s clothes in an effort to promote good hygiene among their children. 
Fulfilling basic hygiene needs are essential building blocks to living productive and healthy lives. A mother needs a reliable supply of diapers in order to send her child to childcare, therefore enabling her to work and earn an income. A child must be fed and comfortable so he or she can learn in school. A family requires soap in order to keep themselves clean and presentable for employment.
PCI’s California Border Healthy Start program is addressing this critical need by improving the health of low-income pregnant women, mothers and their babies in areas that represent the highest levels of poverty and poor birth outcomes in San Diego. Through our program, we run a local diaper bank that distributes thousands of diapers to families and also help cover basic needs during times of financial crisis.
In 2015, we distributed 2,900 diapers with an average of 10 families served monthly. Also, our Healthy Start program holds a baby shower where diapers and hygiene products are distributed to the local community on a yearly basis. Additionally, PCI is part of the National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN), an organization that raises awareness of diaper need and helps strengthen community-based diaper banks.
Transformational Impact through Simple Interventions:
Tania enrolled in PCI’s Healthy Start program when she was six months pregnant. She had an older child and was a victim of domestic violence during her pregnancy. Her baby, Angel, was born with an enlarged kidney.
Tania, her two children, and her mother all live together in a one-bedroom home. They share a single sofa bed to sleep and only have one income to provide for the entire family.
Tania joined the Healthy Start program and connected with a Care Group for women who gave her social support on topics such as motherhood and how to access training on financial planning, computers and communication skills for a successful future. The program also provided a bassinet and diapers for Tania’s baby.
In the group, she learned about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and the importance of her baby sleeping alone, on his back and without blankets or toys. The women also provided support and education on topics such as breastfeeding, child development and immunizations.
Tania shared that her family and baby are finally able to have a good night’s sleep. She’s returned back to school and is now looking forward to a bright and healthy future for her children.
Christa Davis is PCI’s Development and Marketing Coordinator; Dr. Maria Lourdes F. Reyes is PCI’s Director of US & Border Programs.