The Health Gap, Cincinnati Medical Association and Melrose YMCA join forces to improve infant health outcomes

October 10, 2017

A painful irony exists alongside Cincinnati’s national acclaim for pediatric health care: Hamilton County ranks amongst the worst areas in the nation for infant mortality rates. Defined by the CDC as the number of infant deaths before turning one-year-old per 1,000 live births, the national infant mortality rate stands at 5.9 as of 2016. The infant mortality rate in Hamilton County weighs in at 9.3, according to a 2016 quarterly report done by the Hamilton County Public Health. However, the county has seen 16 percent drop in infant mortality rates throughout the last 10 years. The Health Gap’s Do Right! Babies campaign has partnered with the Cincinnati Medical Association and the Melrose YMCA to address the factors contributing to Cincinnati losing so many babies.

Do Right! Babies just concluded a six-week-long educational series for pregnant and new African-American mothers living in urban communities, which are particularly prone to high infant death rates. Physicians of the Cincinnati Medical Association came to the Melrose YMCA to deliver free learning sessions about topics such as prenatal health, post-natal care, and sex education. The series coincided with National Infant Mortality Awareness Month.

Participants sit in on an educational session.

While the considerably high infant mortality rates in urban communities can be partially attributed to a lack of healthcare resources, Roosevelt Walker of the Cincinnati Medical Association says individual behavior changes can also help remedy this disparity.

“We know that there are some factors within the community and within the home that seem to be having a great impact on how well black babies do,” Walker says. “The solutions that we are coming up with are bringing attention to the community environment and the home environment.”

Making sure new parents are educated about safely putting a baby to sleep is an important factor, Walker says. “Babies are not supposed to sleep in the bed with them (parents). They’re supposed to be in a crib that only has a sheet on the mattress.” Cribs should be free of pillows, blankets, and toys, which pose a risk for suffocation.

In addition to making sure new moms understand safe sleep practices, considerations such as pregnancy spacing, contraception, postpartum mental health, and planning doctor visits were discussed. The sessions encouraged a mutual dialogue between the physicians and participants, giving the women in attendance opportunities to ask important questions and share their personal experiences.

Dinner was provided for participants and their children as they engaged with physicians and fellow mothers.

“It was pretty helpful because I’m a first-time mom,” Mishael Yisrael, 22, says. The Avondale resident says the sessions taught her things she may not have learned otherwise
and boosted her confidence about becoming a mother. “I would definitely recommend it to others,” Yisrael says about the series.

We would like to give a special thanks to the following CMA physicians who so graciously dedicated their time to the series:

Regina Whitfield-KeKessi, MD, MPH
Rhonda Washington, MD
Bradley Jackson, MD
Nurse Practitioner Cassie Wordlaw, APRN, MSN, MSW
Kent Robinson, MD
Roosevelt Walker, MD

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