Could community be the answer to improving infant mortality rates? Atrium Medical Center says the answer is 'yes'.
The hospital is launching a program called CenteringPregnancy in conjunction with the Butler County Partnership to Reduce Infant Mortality and the Ohio Department of Medicaid.
Expectant mothers will be placed in a group of eight to ten women with similar due dates. They'll attend ten prenatal visits, each 90 minutes to two hours long. The hospital says this means more time with their care provider teams.
It will also help the women create a "supportive community where they develop skills and confidence to take control of their health," Atrium says in a statement.
Dr. Rhonda Washington says women are more likely to keep up with their care and follow doctor's orders in a group setting.
"Learning from your peers assists in the process of care," she says. "People are more likely to be excited and more likely to interact and care about the things that they should do. They are more compliant. It's been shown to increase breast feeding rates, decrease infant mortality rates, decrease the risk of pre-term labor and pre-term birth."
Butler County Health Commissioner Jenny Bailer says local data shows a connection between infant mortality rates and a lack of social supports.
"Many of the women here are giving birth when they're not married and they don't have family support. This counters that and allows women to form a social support group."
African American women will be given priority enrollment, Atrium says, because "they suffer the highest rates of infant deaths before their baby’s first birthday, according to Ohio Department of Health."
"Our African American babies are being hit especially hard by low birth weights and prematurity, which puts them at high risk of dying before they are even one-year-old," Bailer says.
Enrollment is free and the hospital is offering free transportation, child care during meeting times, and access to a community health worker to help with welfare benefits, WIC appointments, and other services that help ensure healthy pregnancies.