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CSU research initiative seeks to reduce infant and maternal mortality

In Ohio, the Black infant and maternal mortality rate is nearly double that in the White community. CSU has joined the statewide effort to combat that disparity. 

Survive and Thrive, a new interdisciplinary research initiative partners CSU’s School of Nursing, College of Arts and Sciences, and College of Education and Public Affairs team members with Birthing Beautiful Communities – a Cleveland nonprofit founded in 2014 expressly to reduce Black infant and maternal deaths. 

Last year, the initiative was awarded $957,387 grant from the Ohio Third Frontier program through the Ohio Department of Higher Education. 

The funding allows the partnership to continue work in the development of a mobile app called “Thrive,” which captures clinical and social indicators for mothers, fathers and infants, and provides support resources to promote live births and a healthy first year for new babies. 

Heather Rice, Ph.D., assistant professor at CSU’s School of Nursing, is principal investigator for the Survive and Thrive team, which was previously funded by Third Frontier Research Incentives. Her work has been critical in the ongoing funding/stabilization of the team’s collective effort. 

The project team includes Roland Anglin, Ph.D., dean and professor, and Richey Piiparinen, director, urban theory and analytics at the College of Education and Public Affairs; Cyleste Collins, Ph.D., associate professor, School of Social Work, College of Arts and Sciences; and Joan Thoman, Ph.D., RN associate professor and dean of research/collaborative partnerships in the School of Nursing. 

“With my background as a pediatric nurse practitioner, I am passionate about how research can impact the work being done around infant and maternal mortality,” Dr. Rice said. “But Survive and Thrive is so much more than that. Being able to coalesce social and clinical data with our team and Birthing Beautiful Communities to uplift and support mothers and families is personal.” 

Dr. Rice pointed to maternal health, preterm birth rates and infant mortality as being “unequivocally tied” to systemic racism which drives maternal stress in African American women. Being able “to help ‘turn the page’ and transform disparities into resilience and birth equity in Cleveland and across Ohio transcends research and statistics,” Dr. Rice said. “It’s a mission.”  

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