While Greater Cincinnati has seen promising progress, there are well-documented racial disparities in maternal and infant mortality rates nationwide. Even with a record-low year of Black infant deaths in Hamilton County, infants who are Black died at a rate five times higher compared to infants who are white in 2021.
This is a multifaceted issue that involves access to prenatal and postpartum care, housing, transportation, food and childcare resources. But for our perinatal outreach program (POP) team who supports pregnancies in our service areas around Mercy Health – Fairfield Hospital and Mercy Health –West Hospital, making a lasting impact is second nature. Their continued hard work and dedication are helping to make a difference in the community.
POP is made up of Kia Davis (pictured above, middle) and Jasmine Clay (pictured above, left), two certified community health workers, and Kimberley Stephens (pictured above, right), program manager and licensed independent social worker. They are dedicated to providing education, advocacy and support to ensure healthy pregnancies and births for clients and their babies, with a particular focus on families who are Black or African American.
The program’s overall goal is to remove obstacles contributing to high infant mortality rates, preterm births and racial disparities in maternal and infant health.
“Our clients confide in us and appreciate having someone outside their families who provides support, tells them the truth and doesn’t pass judgment upon them,” Kia shares.
Many clients they support face work, transportation or childcare challenges that make attending regular prenatal appointments challenging. Kia and Jasmine maximize community resources to lower barriers to care and provide education about prenatal and postpartum care. They visit clients at home to deliver cribs and discuss nutrition, safe sleep, breastfeeding, family planning and smoking cessation—all to ensure that both client and baby have good health outcomes.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Kia and Jasmine have provided their services, resources and support in creative ways since they were not able to do their usual in-home visits. Not all clients have access to telehealth services, so getting them to appointments and follow-up care appointments were some of the biggest challenges they faced.
The team worked with their clients to provide education and lactation support over video chat and also set up socially distanced meet ups. Kia and Jasmine continued work through the pandemic to deliver much needed items such as cribs, healthy food and diapers to clients who did not want to venture out of the home. In addition, the POP team provided counseling, equipping clients with healthy coping skills, which was a particular need during the pandemic.
“We provide clients with their own ‘mental health toolkit,’” Jasmine explains.
Since 2020, POP’s first year of operation, the program has served more than 260 clients.
In 2021, 93 percent of babies of clients enrolled in POP were born with a healthy birth weight and the infant mortality rate in Hamilton County reached a record low. But work remains: remember, Black babies were nearly five times more likely to die than white babies in 2021, and sleep-related infant deaths are on the rise. The POP team will continue to play a role in improving birth outcomes and advancing equity in our community.
“From the first outreach call made to the very last discussion before completing program services, I treat my clients with the same care I’d like to receive regardless of background or whatever labels society has placed, because I want my clients to thrive in life well past the short time we are working together,” Jasmine adds.
Learn about the maternity care services we provide at Mercy Health.