May 13, 2024 - News

Cleveland wins grant to combat Black infant mortality

Illustration of a woman's hand holding a stork and baby.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

The Cleveland Department of Public Health and its MomsFirst program have been awarded $5 million in operational funding over the next five years to improve outcomes for Black moms and babies.

Why it matters: Racial disparities in Cleveland's infant mortality rate are extreme, with 15.4 deaths per 1,000 births among Black babies — almost three times the national rate — and 6.9 per 1,000 among white babies.

Zoom out: Cleveland's funding comes from a $105 million allocation from the Biden-Harris administration for community organizations working in maternal and infant health care.

What they're saying: "Having a safe and healthy pregnancy and birth shouldn't depend on the color of your skin, what language you speak at home, or where you live," said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, in a statement.

Flashback: MomsFirst was established in Cleveland in 1991 as a home visitation program to help expectant mothers during pregnancy and babies during their first 18 months.

  • Participants in the program are assigned a community health worker who supports them during pregnancy and provides guidance on topics like breastfeeding, mental health and family planning.

Between the lines: The program has evolved and now focuses chiefly on reducing the Black infant mortality rate.

The latest: In March, MomsFirst hired a new director, Kathleen Solove, who holds a masters degree in public health from the University of Kentucky and B.A. in psychology and health communication from Case.


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