New funding addresses Black maternal, infant mortality in Pierce County
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s Black Infant Health program is undergoing a major overhaul, thanks to a million-dollar grant.
TACOMA, Wash. — The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has good news for Black mothers, the department recently received a grant of $1 million to redesign its Black Infant Health program.
Cathryn Walker went through the program when she had her children, and said it was an invaluable resource during a stressful time, especially during the pandemic.
“Your emotions are everywhere, and the world shut down,” she said. “I didn’t know what the process was going to be for my kid, even for the first three years that she was living.”
Emily Chandler, who supervises the program, said the goal is to address an alarming trend. She said Black infants and their mothers die at more than twice the rate of their White counterparts in Pierce County.
Data from Multicare also shows that between 2014-2018, Pierce County had a higher infant mortality rate than the state, and Black infants died at a rate nearly three times higher than their White counterparts.
“These disparities also persist even when controlling for socioeconomic factors,” Chandler reported. “Black college-educated women experience higher rates of infant and maternal mortality rates than White high school dropouts.”
Walker said numbers like these can put a new Black mother on edge.
“It’s not the best view that people give you in the beginning, so you just never know what’s going to happen,” she confessed.
But that’s also why Walker says the Black Infant Health program is so important.
The program connects Black mothers to vital resources and provides support as they go through pregnancy and birth.
Now Chandler said this million-dollar grant could push those efforts beyond Pierce County’s lines.
“We are seeking to develop a replicable, community informed and evidence-informed parent support model that can be scaled across the state,” she said “This money will help us ensure that we have the capacity to evaluate the program and measure its effectiveness so it can be scaled to different counties in the state and just reach more families.”
As the program grows, Walker hopes more Black mothers will take advantage.
“I’m grateful,” she said. “I don’t even know where I would be if I didn’t have the program!”