Cradle Cincinnati Shares Strategies for Reducing Infant Mortality

Cradle Cincinnati co-founders Elizabeth Kelly, MD (fourth from left), and James Greenberg, MD (center, in tie), with JHF staff and community partners: Elena Facchini, Brandi Gentry, Dannai Wilson, Kate Dickerson, Nicole Singletary, Jada Shirriel, Anna Ettinger, Debra Bogen, and Hanifa Nakiryowa.

Two co-founders of Cradle Cincinnati, a collaborative formed to reduce infant mortality, told their story to their counterparts in Allegheny County at a meeting convened by JHF on March 18. 

The two Ohio doctors — Elizabeth Kelly, MD, and James M. Greenberg, MD — made clear that they don't have all the answers, but are eager to share their lessons (and mistakes) in a campaign born in 2013 out of urgency. Their county (Hamilton) had the second-worst infant mortality rate in the nation, and a collective response was needed. Dr. Greenberg is director of the Division of Neonatology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center; Dr. Kelly is director of Community Women's Health at University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Their approach started with listening. The "first part of the project was real ethnography, learning what mattered to women in their health and life," said Dr. Greenberg. "It couldn't be people like me saying, 'We are here to help you, and we know what you need.'We had to start with a blank slate, and ask how to redesign everything about how pregnancy is experienced."

The local attendees were Jada Shirriel, MS, CLC, the CEO of Healthy Start, and Nicole Singletary, director of In Home programs at Healthy Start; Dannai Wilson, MS, manager in the Division of Maternal and Child Health Services at the Allegheny County Health Department; Brandi Gentry, a certified birth and bereavement doula who is the founder of Oli's Angels; Anna Ettinger, PhD, senior research scientist, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; and Debra Bogen, MD, a pediatrician at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and professor of Pediatrics, Psychiatry, and Clinical and Translational Science at Pitt.

One of the first areas that Cradle Cincinnati addressed was extreme preterm birth rates among African-American women, as premature birth is the leading cause of infant mortality.

Dannai Wilson of Allegheny County, while welcoming the ground-level approach that Cradle Cincinnati was taking, advocates in her work for "not just asking women, 'what are your problems?' but finding out: What are your strengths?"

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