$1.3 million grants to help improve infant, maternal health

Shelly Decker, a nurse for Brigid's Path, holds one of the babies the agency serves. Kettering-based Brigid's Path serves newborns and mothers impacted by addiction.

Credit: Brigid's Path

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Shelly Decker, a nurse for Brigid's Path, holds one of the babies the agency serves. Kettering-based Brigid's Path serves newborns and mothers impacted by addiction.

Credit: Brigid's Path

Ten health care groups providing pregnancy and family services in the Miami Valley area will get $1.3 million from nearly $5 million in statewide grant funding.

Gov. Mike DeWine announced last week that the Ohio Department of Health in partnership with the Governor’s Children’s Initiative would fund 44 community- and faith-based organizations starting Jan. 1.

The recipient of the region’s largest grant is Baby 1st Network, which works statewide. It will get $250,000 support of the Ohio Collaborative to Prevent Infant Mortality.

Dr. Stacy Scott, executive director of Baby 1st Network, said she and Dr. James Greenberg at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital have been working for the last couple of years to include community members statewide in their programs.

Many people don’t realize how infant and maternal mortality affects their communities, she said.

“We hope by bringing the educational awareness to community members, they can also help us reduce mortality in pregnancy and infancy,” Scott said.

When the Baby 1st Network started 40 years ago it concentrated on the 10 Ohio counties with the highest infant mortality rates, but the problem exists everywhere, she said. Now they want to reach every county in the state.

The Baby 1st Network focuses on Black people giving birth, since health and outcome disparities are known to exist for them, Scott said. But the organization is happy to expand its programs and recruit more participants from communities that are normally overlooked, she said.

Babies born to Black mothers in Montgomery County are smaller and twice as likely to die before their first birthdays than babies of white mothers, according to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. That’s true regardless of wealth and education, due in part to disparities in clinical care, differences in health-related behaviors, and community conditions such as housing, transportation and employment, the organization found.

The rate at which babies in Ohio die before their first birthday was 6.9 per 1,000 in 2016, according to the governor’s office. Ohio’s goal, in line with national aspirations, is six or fewer infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

Kettering-based Brigid’s Path will get $87,500 to develop and implement its Prenatal Empowerment Program in Montgomery County. The organization serves newborns and mothers impacted by addiction.

“As we continue our work to accompany families impacted by substance use disorder, this grant funding will support our efforts to reach mothers earlier in their pregnancy journey,” said Megan Zarnitz, Brigid’s Path assistant director. “We’ve found that the earlier in her pregnancy that we start working with a mother, the sooner we’re able to connect her with the social services and support that can make a major difference for her, her baby and her entire family.”

The American Fitness Health & Wellness Institute will get $98,642.38 to provide maternal and infant services to remove barriers to healthcare in Greene and Montgomery counties.

The organization, founded in 1986, has been operating from Old North Dayton since 2008, but saw its client base expanded dramatically after the 2019 Memorial Day tornadoes, said Dr. Jeanette Robinson, chief executive director.

“Just over the past two weeks we’ve been getting over 50 calls a day,” she said. “This will help so many hundreds of women and men in the community.”

The funding will let them add at least one staff person to provide maternal health and support from a faith-based perspective, Robinson said. It will also fund parental wellness services and referrals to partner agencies to combat infant mortality and reduce disparities in health care, she said.

American Fitness Health & Wellness Institute applied for the “highly competitive” grant in October, submitting a huge package of information on its services, Robinson said.

The other grant recipients that work in the region are:

  • Health Care Access Now, Cincinnati, will get $190,113 to serve four counties, including Butler and Warren, by recruiting three new Community Health Workers Certification Program classes from Latino, Asian and Indigenous communities.
  • Elizabeth’s New Life Center will get $187,500 for pregnancy and parenting services at its six Women’s Centers in Hamilton and Montgomery counties. Elizabeth’s New Life Center offers relationship counseling and some prenatal services, with an emphasis on discouraging abortion.
  • Moms2B, a pregnancy program for low-income families established in 2010 by Ohio State University will get $125,000 for use statewide. The money will go for Moms2B and Dads2B programs, and providing statewide training on babies’ health and good parenting skills. In late 2020 the program began enrolling Dayton-area parents. At first that meant joining Columbus sessions virtually, but in-person education sessions in Dayton are planned.
  • Bon Secours Mercy Health will get $115,134 to use in seven counties — including Butler, Champaign and Clark — to use in conjunction with community partners in improving access to parenting education, prenatal and postpartum health services and promoting financial stability.
  • Pathway to Hope in Hamilton will get $105,693 to develop its Family Prepare, Resource, Empower, Provide program in Butler County. Pathway to Hope offers pregnancy testing, some ultrasounds and parenting classes.
  • Dayton Children’s Hospital will get $30,691 to expand lactation services in Montgomery County.
  • Gem City Diaper Bank will get $18,750 to provide diapers and wipes to Montgomery County families.

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