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Collaborative research program aims to curb infant mortality, help meet pregnancy nutrition needs

Posted at 1:53 PM, Jul 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-29 13:53:50-04

CLEVELAND — As more families, specifically mothers, are struggling to put food on the table, a new research program is taking a deep dive into food insecurity and stress in Cleveland.

We’re told the conditions continue to contribute to high infant mortality rates. According to the First Year Cleveland, more than 13,000 babies were born in Cuyahoga County in 2020. Yet, 101 of those babies died in their first year of life. Moreover, 73% of those babies were African American, from all socio-economic levels.

“It’s always a study. There have been studies for decades about what’s going on with Black women and maternal health and everything that is going on,” said Christine Lattiemore, Navigator Social Worker with the Better Health Pathway Hub.

The problem

Lattiemore says while we all are facing some level of trauma, survival, sacrifice and stress, many women, including her clients, have a hard time asking for help.

“We mirror a lot of the clients actually a lot of the times. We have empathy. So, we can relate,” she said. “It’s somewhat of an embarrassment, to be honest. To be open with someone you do not know who is not part of your regular family.”

Through Better Health’s daily assessments, individual needs are being identified. As Lattiemore explained, many pregnant women “do not have the transportation, they do not have the food. If they had the food, how are they going to cook it? How are they going to store it? They don’t have a refrigerator.”

Alissa Glenn, director of community health and nutrition at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, said, “with really high rates of inflation and food prices, getting nutritious food directly to high-risk parents is even more important.”

Glenn says during the pandemic, the food bank served food to women at high risk of poor outcomes, but has not been able to expand until now.

Nourishing Beginnings

The research program, Nourishing Beginnings, is in partnership with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, Better Health Partnership First Year Cleveland and Case Western Reserve University.

About 125 qualifying women will be assessed and serviced through six months post-partum over the next two years.

According to a press release: “[the] program will evaluate two models of food support, with the goal of creating and evaluating a sustainable and effective program that improves health outcomes. To determine the most effective and impactful way to deliver nutrition, participants will be assigned into one of two program study groups. One group will receive boxed food from the Greater Cleveland Food Bank every other week to make nutritious meals at home. These foods are unprocessed, highly nutritious, and customized to fit the pregnant person’s needs. The second group will receive cash that can be used for groceries every other week. Participants will also receive navigation to health food retail and access to nutrition resources as well as training and support from community health workers. All participants will receive assistance with needed kitchen items as well as access to easy-to-understand recipes and nutrition information for during and after pregnancy.”

A summary of findings and recommendations will be developed at the end of the program.