Butler County groups want men to join fight against infant mortality

Several Butler County groups are increasing efforts to get more men involved in the fight against infant mortality. The absence of men showing up at events and workshops has begun to dwindle, which has become a concern to those who are leading the fight to combat the issue.

The Journal-News has been putting a spotlight on the high infant mortality rate in the Butler County area, especially among black babies, which is among the 10 worst in the country.

Six Butler County projects aimed at reducing infant mortality will receive more than $2 million from the Ohio Department of Medicaid.

MORE: Butler County receives funding to combat infant mortality

The initiatives, which range from smoking cessation to centering pregnancy programs, will deal with high risk black women who are pregnant, since black babies are dying at twice the rate of white babies before the age of 1 in the county, according to data from the Ohio Department of Health.

Dr. Celeste Davis, Matthew Smith, and Abdul Shakur, who have been very active with the Celebrate Fatherhood-Middletown group, have been actively working to get more men involved with training and workshops, but the numbers just haven’t been there.

“We keep planning events and doing outreach to get these men out and get involved, but that quite frankly, hasn’t been the case,” Davis explained. “Celebrate Fatherhood also focuses on family health and other issues. We have to get more men out in order to make these programs work.”

The group has put together a fatherhood event starting at 9 a.m. June 10 at the Golden Corral, 3350 Village Dr. in Middletown and another outing scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. June 17 at Middletown’s Tried Stone Banquet Center, 621 Lafayette Ave.

MORE: Middletown’s Families First expand efforts to fight infant mortality

“At the Golden Corral we are trying to get men out for a fatherhood breakfast and the first 25 will eat free,” Davis said. “On June 24, we will have a conference to discuss infant mortality, education and violence in the community.”

Smith said the event will also “honor men men in the city, that have been role models and mentors,” during their lifetime.

Shakur said battling infant mortality should “be at the forefront of the struggle,” for men in the community, but the numbers who turnout for events don’t show that.

“We want our fathers to become better parents, partners and providers,” he said. “We want to get that message spread here in Butler County.”

A Middletown non-profit agency called Families First, has been working on various programs aimed at dealing with infant mortality. Ruth Kelly, the organization’s director and administrator, said it is important to draw more men into the fight.

“This has been a big issue in the community and most people in our community don’t understand that are babies don’t live past their first year so we want to save them,” Kelly said. “We want to see the men in the community get more involved.”

MORE: New Butler County health commissioner targets infant deaths, smoking

Butler County Health Commissioner Jennifer Bailer, who served as the nursing director at the Butler County Health Department and co-lead of the Partnership to Reduce Infant Mortality (PRIM) for the past six years, believes that the fight against infant mortality is one of the top health issues facing the county.

“A high rate of infant deaths, which indicates overall poor health of many members of our community, and very high smoking rates, as well as opiate addiction,” are among her top concerns. She too, is encouraging more men to join the infant mortality fight.

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