The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has awarded $4,870,000 to Cook County Health (CCH) in grant funding over five years through its Healthy Start Initiative: Eliminating Disparities in Perinatal Health (known as Healthy Start) for the Cook County Healthy Start Initiative project to improve pregnancy outcomes and reduce infant mortality.

The aim of the project is to help eliminate perinatal health disparities in Cook County by providing case management support for African-American women aged 20-35 at-risk for poor birth outcomes, along with their infants and father/partners, served across sites by CCH.

“By strengthening CCH’s prenatal health delivery system and establishing a new model of comprehensive preconception and prenatal health care services across various points of entry, it will aim to ameliorate the existing disparate outcomes for high-risk pregnant African-American women that can result in maternal and infant mortality, low-birth weight, and pre-term births,” said Dr. Mark Loafman, Department Chair, Family and Community Medicine, CCH.” “The project will impact approximately 600 women and strives to reduce the African-American infant mortality rate in the targeted project area.”

Cook County has some of the highest rates of child mortality in the state. Of the racial/ethnic groups in Cook County, African-American women experience the poorest maternal/child health outcomes. According to data from the Cook County Department of Public Health and the Chicago Department of Public Health, from 2013-2015, the average infant mortality rate for Cook County was 6.6 per 1,000 live births. However, compared to Hispanic, non-Hispanic Asian and non-Hispanic white mothers, non-Hispanic African-American mothers experienced the highest rate of infant mortality at 13.6 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. This rate is more than twice the county average — totaling 453 infant deaths.

The funding will support a wide range of services for women, children and families at CCH, including: health care coordination; case management; linkage to social services; screening and counseling for alcohol, tobacco and other drug use; breastfeeding support; interconception education; child development education; and parenting support. In addition, the funding will strengthen CCH’s health workforce to provide such services, build a more effective and efficient service-delivery system, and promote and improve health equity.