The human race is impacted by infant mortality in a way that has brought people of all backgrounds together. In this spirit, many dedicated and concerned citizens came together to aim for equity at the 2016 Infant Mortality Summit held at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland on December 5 & 6.
In Ohio, 1005 infants died before their first birthday in 2015, in comparison to 955 in 2014. Ohio’s infant mortality rate is higher than most states and the nation as a whole. Black infants in Ohio continue to die at nearly three times the rate of white infants. Professionals, community leaders, family members and advocates for women and children, gathered at the 2016 Infant Mortality Summit because they want to do something about it. History has shown that when the community gathers together on one accord, they can pave the way for gradual change. The faith of leaders, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is still leaving a mark on the hearts and minds of all people. With the dream still not fully realized, there is still work to do.
All races and socioeconomic groups experience infant death; however, African American babies are dying at a rate much higher than other racial groups even when considering education and socioeconomic status differences. Despite the victories of the civil rights movement in the 1960’s, racial discrimination and oppression has not abated. Modern civil rights movements are still needed to address the daunting inequities that plague the lives of children and families in Cleveland and around the country. A Collective Impact framework is being used to tackle complex social issues like infant mortality.
In the fight against infant mortality partnerships are being formed to build healthier neighborhoods and stronger communities where children can grow up safe- without being at risk for health disparities and social injustices. The Cleveland/Cuyahoga Partnership to Improve Birth Outcomes is one partnership that uses community collaboration to address these issues.
The Summit was a place where organizations and individuals alike could highlight their progress and receive encouragement for the road ahead. MomsFirst participant, Rayleenah Saleem, who recently told her breastfeeding success story served as a panelist for the session titled, “Breast for Success is an Intervention that Works: Engaging High-Risk Inner-City Mothers and Fathers/Partners in Breastfeeding Education”, along with MomsFirst Case Manager, Eira Yates. Breast for Success is a culturally competent breastfeeding education program that seeks to address the barriers that many women experience regarding breastfeeding. Breast for Success also has a parallel father-friendly version dedicated to engagement of fathers and partners. Fatherhood matters and many men are also taking a stand to collaborate with organizations that make families stronger.
The evidence of community collaboration was strong at Ohio’s Infant Mortality Summit as numerous organizations united under the leadership of the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Collaborative to Prevent Infant Mortality chaired by Lisa Holloway of the March of Dimes Ohio Chapter and Dr. Arthur R. James of The Ohio State University.
Every family deserves to experience the freedom of equity. How each person defines equity may vary, but we can start by making sure our children live long enough to decide.
To learn more about how to get involved to make an impact right here in Cleveland, visit http://momsfirst.org/for-advocates/.