New study will investigate infant mortality in Cleveland

To gain insight into one of the most troubling health issues facing black families in Ohio, the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) has granted Research Incentive funding to Cleveland State University to conduct a study on black infant mortality.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, black infants in the United States die at twice the rate of white infants. In Cleveland, however, black infants are dying at triple the rate.

Attempting to address this area of concern, the ODHE sent a request for proposals. Roland Anglin Ph.D., dean and professor of the College of Urban Affairs, said the request for proposal (RFP) provided the chance to work with Dr. Gregory Hall, co-director of the NEOMED-CSU Partnership for Urban Health, which the two had been looking for.

“Dr. Hall and I had been discussing ways to collaborate, and the RFP seemed like a great way for us to start that collaboration,” Anglin said. “So we proposed a project, which is really a research and demonstration project, in that we are going to look at some of the social determinants in African-American mortality, but we are also working with a very, very innovative local partner, Birthing Beautiful Communities.”

Birthing Beautiful Communities have a survival rate of 98.9% with the mothers it has helped in the past through innovative mechanisms of identifying key stressors. Hall brought the organization on board to be a valuable partner.

“We recognized that not one of us could do all of it, but it was a total effort,” Anglin said, “which is very indicative of what CSU is all about. It’s about breaking down silos and becoming an anchor institution that can serve the community and also do good research.”

Cleveland State received $982,322 in grant money for Survive and Thrive – A New Future for African American Babies on Jan. 29. That money will go toward training community health workers and doulas to assess stress and assess the environment around the 150 Ohio mothers in the study.

 The grant will also cover the development of an app to be used in the collection of data during the study, as well as a resource toolkit for the mothers that includes transportation access, housing and job placement, and trauma therapy.

Birthing Beautiful Communities will carry out the intervention itself and the implementation of the app, so that Cleveland State may evaluate the progress and outcomes of the study.

“It’s going to have a national impact just because the issue is so complex and we’ve looked at it for many, many years and wondered how to make a difference,” Anglin said.

Heather Rice Ph.D., assistant professor of the College of Nursing, will join Anglin and Hall as the third principle investigator on the research team.

“I also think it’s going to be making an impact for Cleveland State’s role in the community and Cleveland,” Anglin continued, “because here you have three really different units of the university collaborating to make sure that we make a difference in the Cleveland community in a very difficult problem.”

Dr. Hall said the goal for Survive and Thrive – A New Future for African American Babies is to contact the first mother by June 1.

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