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Cleveland Clinic Opens Center for Infant and Maternal Health

The Center will leverage community health partnerships to support wraparound care for infants and mothers both during pregnancy and during the postpartum period.

The Cleveland Clinic has launched the Center for Infant and Maternal Health, an initiative designed to address maternal and infant mortality by way of community health partnerships and investment in post-partum care.

The Center will emphasize the power of community health in improving maternal and infant health outcomes and integrate specialty care during pregnancy and through an infant’s first year of life, according to Oluwatosin “Tosin” Goje, MD, medical director of the center.

“This initiative is our pledge to support vulnerable women,” Goje said in the announcement. “We will focus on reducing premature births, increasing awareness about safe sleep and promoting the benefits of breastfeeding. The infant mortality rate serves as a key indicator of maternal and infant health, and also an important measure of the health status of the community.”

That infant and maternal mortality rates are abysmal, the Cleveland Clinic noted, citing figures from the Ohio Equity report finding that the infant mortality rate in Cuyahoga County was 7.6 per 1,000 live births in 2020. Those figures were worse for Black families; the infant mortality rate was 3.2 per 1,000 for White infants compared to 14.6 per 1,000 among Black infants.

That is an enormous problem, Center leaders indicated, and although the Cleveland Clinic is going to expand its existing resources, it needs to tap into the community, as well.

“We recognize that these complex problems will only be solved if we embrace our responsibility to the communities we serve and work with community partners to find solutions,” Beri Ridgeway, MD, Cleveland Clinic chief of staff, said in a statement. “We are committed to health equity and eliminating racial disparities by offering community-based, evidence-driven care.”

The Center will hire and work with OB navigators to help connect patients with community-based resources. Additionally, the program has hired a midwife to work at the Cleveland Clinic’s main campus. That addition will ideally help expand patient access to care in traditionally disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Furthermore, the Center has hired community health workers to serve as perinatal support specialists, as well as partnered with doulas and hired patient navigators. The Center will also be launching a home visit program.

“The healthcare needs in Northeast Ohio are vast, and no one organization can manage the demand for care alone,” said Goje. “Partnerships and resource-sharing among large and small institutions is a vital part of the solution.”

Finally, the Center is embracing health needs during the post-partum period, beginning with twice-a-week visits with new mothers for six weeks after they give birth. The Cleveland Clinic said this should help promote chronic disease detection and management, emotional well-being, infant care, and contraception access.

The nation’s rank of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the developed world is not a new issue, but it has gained renewed attention in recent years.

Earlier this month, researchers published in JAMA Network Open data indicating that the maternal mortality rate increased during the early aughts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The researchers found that mortality rates increased by 22 percent, from 27.5 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2019 to 33.6 deaths per 100,000 live births for pregnancy-associated causes in 2020.

Experts have indicated that better support for patients, both in the clinical and community setting, will be essential to addressing these high mortality rates. Identifying and mitigating instances of racism will particularly be key to closing the racial maternal mortality gap.

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