Six projects in Montgomery County are aimed at helping more babies live to their first birthdays, as part of a state effort to bring down Ohio’s high infant mortality rate.
Ohio Department of Medicaid is granting $3.61 million toward the projects, which are in four key areas: community health workers, home visiting, group prenatal care and community-based interventions.
Gov. Mike DeWine has made children’s health a cornerstone of his administration, and in his State of the State address called the state’s high infant mortality rates shocking and unacceptable. Ohio has been focusing its efforts in the nine counties where nearly two-thirds of the infant deaths — and 90 percent of all black infant deaths — are occurring, including Montgomery and Butler.
These six Montgomery County programs are some of the early examples of specific ways that the administration is putting money toward this goal.
“As a nurse, I know investments in clinical care and community-based services are critical to reduce infant mortality and its racial disparity,” said Ohio Medicaid director Maureen Corcoran.
Montgomery County’s infant mortality rate was 6.8 deaths for every 1,000 births overall in 2018, though the rate was 10.5 deaths per 1,000 births for black infants.
The leading causes of infant deaths are due to premature births, birth defects, and safe sleep practices. Also, there is a historical disparity in the number of deaths, with black babies dying at a rate two times more than white babies.
“Through our partnerships, we will see new and expanded services to help both mother and child before, during and after the pregnancy,” said Office of Health Promotion Director and EveryOne Reach One Task Force co-lead Terra Williams.
The state grant money will go through the insurance companies that manage Ohio Medicaid plans including Buckeye Health Plan, CareSource, Molina Health Care, Paramount and United HealthCare.
The programs where the money will go include:
• Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County’s Neighborhood Navigators will act as liaisons between health and social services and the community. During this grant period, the Neighborhood Navigators will work with more than 400 within priority areas in Montgomery County. Also, Public Health has a home visiting program, Every Parent Matters, to encourages fathers’ participation by offering separate home visits as well as joint home visits with the mothers; assigning home visitors (male Community Health Workers) who best fit the father’s needs.
• The Family Wellness Community Health Worker Project at Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley team will identify pregnant women earlier in pregnancy, provide information on available prenatal health care, encourage scheduled appointments with prenatal providers in the first trimester, engage African American women in prenatal and postnatal home visits and supports, and increase the availability of resources.
• Help Me Grow Brighter Futures will continue the implementation of home visiting programs.
• Five Rivers Health Centers will train Community Health Workers to be doulas. A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical, and educational support to a mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor, or has recently given birth. Five Rivers will also host CenteringPregnancy, which is an evidence-based prenatal care group program.
• Miami Valley Organizing Collaborative’s Community Hope Project will work with faith-based groups to establish health ministries and congregants will be learn to be Health Ambassadors.
• Wesley Community Center will provide a neighborhood black women-led peer support group for mental health. Wesley will partner with schools of professional psychology and medicine at local colleges and universities. The community center will also use a Community Health Worker program model to support new and expectant black women.
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