Partnership to Eliminate Disparities in Infant Mortality Shares Lessons Learned

By Katie Brandert
Education & Training Manager, CityMatCH at the University of Nebraska Medical Center

Phyllis George
Program Manager, National Healthy Start Association

Jessica Hawkins
Senior Program Manager, Women’s & Infant Health and Region IV Liaison, AMCHP

To address disparities in infant mortality, CityMatCH, the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs (AMCHP) and the National Healthy Start Association (NHSA) – with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation – created the Partnership to Eliminate Disparities in Infant Mortality. The purpose of this partnership is to eliminate racial inequities contributing to infant mortality within U.S. urban areas. The first activity of the partnership was an 18-month Action Learning Collaborative (ALC) with six sites.

The team-based ALC emphasizes innovative approaches to reducing racial inequities in infant mortality in urban communities, with particular attention paid to the impacts of racism. Throughout the ALC, national partnership staff provides teams with technical assistance, including tools for action planning and evaluation, informational calls with experts in the field, and resources to assist in carrying out selected strategies. ALC teams are encouraged to develop strategies related to any aspect of addressing racism and infant mortality appropriate for their community and state.

Maternal and child health professionals at the local, state and national levels are uniquely positioned to address racism in the United States. Not only do the populations and topics that maternal and child health (MCH) professionals focus on illustrate clear racial health disparities, but research coming out of the MCH field makes it impossible to ignore the role that racism plays in inhibiting health equity. The Infant Mortality and Racism ALC was the first effort of its kind – coordinating efforts across three national MCH organizations; convening professionals from six urban areas in six states; examining the latest research around racism, stress and birth outcomes; and working together to design innovative strategies for implementation at the local and state levels.

The ALC process is a successful approach for tackling a topic as complex and sensitive as racism, with equal attention paid to information and research, personal reflection and growth, and team-building within communities and across all participants of the ALC. The work in each community, and each of the three national organizations, will continue and the experiences and lessons learned will inspire and inform efforts in other communities and states across the nation.

A detailed publication on the experiences and recommendations from the six teams, created/designed to serve as a resource for others interested in addressing racism and its impacts on infant mortality, can be accessed at citymatch.org/downloads/TakingFirstStepBooklet.pdf.

Building upon the successes and lessons learned of the previous collaborative, CityMAtCH, AMCHP and NHSA determined there was more need for this important work and have engaged five new state-local teams. The following teams were selected to participate:

  • New Haven, CT
  • New Orleans, LA
  • Boston, MA
  • Michigan (working with six metropolitan areas throughout the state)
  • Fort Worth, TX

The new cohort of teams will work together through February 2013 and lessons learned will be shared throughout the process.

1 MacDorman MF, Mathews TJ. Recent Trends in Infant Mortality in the United States. NCHS data brief, no 9. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2008.
2 Ibid
3 Ibid