• Presentation or Recording
  • September 10, 2018

Working to Improve Birth Outcomes and Reduce Infant Mortality

Listen to this 5-minute presentation by Melody Schaeffer from St. Louis Children's Hospital who gives you a brief overview of how they work to address health disparities, improve birth outcomes, and ultimately reduce infant mortality. Feel free to contact Melody with questions and please give us feedback.

Recording transcript

Hello, my name is Melody Schaeffer. I am a supervisor of community benefit and evaluation at St. Louis Children’s Hospital in St. Louis MO. I’m here to talk to you about infant mortality and how we are providing a multidisciplinary approach to addressing the issue.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that infant mortality is the death of an infant before his or her first birthday. In St. Louis, there are neighborhoods with rates of infant mortality that are worse than some developing countries, like Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Here in St. Louis we also see a staggering health disparity as black babies are three times more likely to die before their first birthday than white babies, and most causes of death are preventable.

What are we doing to address it? St. Louis Children’s Hospital has created a program called Raising St. Louis, a home visitation intervention beginning in pregnancy and continuing until the child reaches the age of 5. Raising St Louis provides unique wraparound and support services as well as partnerships with nursing services and parent educators to improve birth outcomes in a coordinated and multidisciplinary approach.

To address the health disparity in St. Louis, Raising St. Louis has identified a service area that is composed of the 22 ZIP codes with the highest rates of infant mortality as well as high rates of unemployment, crime and low food security or safe housing.

When we work with our clients, we work with them to create a program that fits their needs, all free of charge. We have community health workers that are focused on providing wraparound resources and group classes for social and emotional support. Additionally, we offer a fatherhood engagement component which can increase a child’s cogitative and developmental advancements.

Since the program began in 2014, over 400 clients have received services and over 350 babies have been born. In similar findings to other organizations, we have found a statistically significant relationship between preterm birth (CDC defined as singleton birth 21 days before due date) and low birthweight (CDC defined as less than 5lbs and 5oz). 16% of our babies have been born with a low birth weight and 26% have been born preterm. Over 95% of our clients have at least one high risk characteristic (these range from being a teen parent, low educational attainment, low income, to substance abuse, etc) and are more likely to have a baby that is either born early, or born at a low birth weight.  We know that when babies are born early, or with a low birthweight, they are less likely to survive to their first birthday. 

While the outcomes might seem bleak, we also see success in our babies, and in their caregivers. I want to share a story about one of our moms.

Meriel refuses to let adversity keep her from accomplishing her goals.  The mom of two graduated from high school the same day she gave birth to her second baby, after having achieved her certified nursing assistant certification.  Meriel has experienced many challenges as a young mother: feeling on the outskirts of her classmates and missing out on high school events, not to mention all of the difficulties that come with being a mom.  Meriel is a part of Raising St. Louis. Staff attended her high school graduation and were with her in the hospital room to support her during the delivery of her second child. Through Raising St. Louis, Meriel has accomplished huge personal goals, successfully secured a place to live, and plans to enroll in St. Louis College of Health Careers.  

This is just some of the work we are doing here in St. Louis to improve birth outcomes and ultimately reduce infant mortality. St. Louis Children’s Hospital is committed to providing quality care to the highest need in our region.

My name is Melody Schaeffer. I look forward to doing more work to help the babies in St. Louis reach their first birthday. Thank you

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