CLEVELAND — With the death rate for black babies more than four times that of white babies, programs like the one at the Cleveland Clinic strive to help new mothers keep their babies healthy and safe.
Mackenzie Johnson, who is mother to 4-month-old Kailani, said she is entering motherhood.
“And I really don’t regret it,” she said. “Love it.”
As an 18-year-old, her original plan wasn’t to become a mother while she was in high school.
She found out she was pregnant towards the end of her freshman year.
“Oh, I was terrified,” Johnson said. “I just didn’t know, like the first thing I thought was what am I going to do? How can I take care of a child, and in the last few years I started taking care of myself?
Here’s where Centering the pregnancy and CenteringParenting entered her life.
The Cleveland Clinic hosts the national programs that provide group health screenings for women throughout their pregnancy and after their baby is born.
“Great experience,” Johnson said. “It gave me the opportunity to meet other new moms and build relationships not only with other moms, but with our babies as well.”
The Cleveland Clinic recently launched an initiative aimed at improving maternal and infant health, and CenteringPregnancy and CenteringParenting are part of that.
Dr Tosin Goje said the aim was to support at-risk pregnant women in the first year of their baby’s life.
“And we know that the excellent hospital care that we provide is not enough,” Goje said. “We need to address the social determinants of health that may be mitigating for the patient. It’s not enough to just look at medical risk factors, obstetrical or even mental health, but you need to think about social risk factors as well.
Infant mortality continues to be a major problem in Cuyahoga County, and racial disparities persist.
The infant mortality rate was 3.2 per 1,000 live births for white infants and 14.6 per 1,000 live births for black infants, according to Ohio Equity Institute Annual Report from 2020
“This means that a black baby in Cuyahoga County is, depending on the zip code, three to five times more likely not to celebrate their first birthday compared to their white friends and colleagues,” Gaudge said.
That’s why Cleveland Clinic Center for Child and Maternal Health is focused on an integrated model of care that partners with community organizations. The mission is to build trust, improve access to care, reduce infant and maternal mortality rates, address the causes of poor outcomes, and reduce racial disparities.
“They send home stuff like all the time,” Johnson said. “Like making sure your baby is on their back, just in their crib, just anything so we don’t have to deal with the grief of losing a baby.”
Kailani was born a month early, and although she was premature, Johnson said her baby girl is on track with others her age.
She said navigating something new and crucial like her baby’s health and development was made easier by the resources provided by the Cleveland Clinic.
Johnson said the support of her family and medical team gave her what she needed to be the best mother she could be.
“She’s a motivation for me,” she said. “Like I have to do something. I have to finish school. I should have a good career. I have to do everything in life so that she can succeed.”
Johnson is scheduled to graduate from an online high school in May and then plans to attend college to become a nurse.
The Cleveland Clinic said the initiative includes recruiting obstetric navigators, community health workers, doulas and midwives to help connect patients to area resources and bridge the gap between vulnerable populations and medical care.