Cleveland MomsFirst “Original 15” Project

Cleveland MomsFirst Project – One of the Original 15 Healthy Start Grantees!

Founded in 1991, the Cleveland MomsFirst Project is one of the original 15 Healthy Start sites. MomsFirst targets African American women in Cleveland’s most impoverished neighborhoods, with special efforts to reach adolescents, as well as homeless, substance abusing or incarcerated women.

To accomplish this, MomsFirst subcontracts with community-based agencies that assist low income, minority populations. The project addresses direct and indirect risk factors that contribute to the disparity in infant mortality and poor birth outcomes. Core services include outreach, case management, health education and interconceptional care. MomsFirst also provides screening and referral for perinatal/postpartum depression, breastfeeding support, child developmental screening, self-sufficiency coaching and smoking cessation services.

A Few of MomsFirst’s Accomplishments

  • MomsFirst has long employed a life course perspective, emphasizing risk reduction and health promotion strategies in all project activities. Taking this culturally competent, holistic approach among a population challenged by significant personal and community deficits has produced real results. Guided by the goal of eliminating racial disparities in infant mortality, proportionately fewer Black MomsFirst participants experienced the death of their baby before their first birthday compared to other pregnant women residing in Cleveland who were not served by MomsFirst. In fact, the 10-year combined infant mortality rate (2009-2019) for MomsFirst of 6.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births is lower than the infant mortality rates for Cleveland, Cuyahoga County and Ohio.
  • MomsFirst administrators and city leaders know that no one organization can single handedly develop the social capital necessary to change all the factors impacting infant mortality. However, building on 30 years of community collaboration and engagement, leveraging a substantial network of cross-sector partners and braiding together federal, state and local funding streams, the MomsFirst Project has driven community change.
  • The project has enrolled over 1,000 women a year, reaching them with strategies to improve women’s health, promote quality services and strengthen family and community resilience, while achieving impact and increasing accountability for infant health in Cleveland.
  • In collaboration with Planned Parenthood of Greater Cleveland, MomsFirst provides free reproductive health care services to men and women onboard the HealthMobile.  The partnership has increased STD and HIV/AIDS screening across Cleveland neighborhoods.
  • All MomsFirst staff are trained to become certified Community Health Workers through the Ohio Board of Nursing.  The course consists of 100 hours of classroom training and a 130-hour externship.
  • MomsFirst’s Perinatal Depression component was featured as a best practice in the HRSA’s Intimate Partner Violence Perinatal Depression Toolkit/Webinar released in 2013.
  • Staff was expanded in 2019 to include a new position, Fatherhood Coordinator, dedicated to actively recruiting, enrolling and engaging fathers and fathers-to-be in prenatal care, childbirth events, infant care and co-parenting.
  • In late 2020, we expanded our mission from reducing disparities in infant mortality to reducing maternal mortality as well.

“We’ve come a long way, baby!”

Over the past 30 years, MomsFirst has evolved significantly: as we know better, we do better. So, as evidence-based practices have been identified, our Cleveland MomsFirst Project has adapted to incorporate the new knowledge into the work we do. Back in 1991, it was thought that the magic bullet to reduce infant mortality was to get pregnant women into early and consistent prenatal care. Now we know that the impact of Social Determinants of Health, such as education, employment, housing, transportation, etc. and systemic racism have negative effects on pregnancy, maternal health and birth outcomes and have strived to address these factors impacting families in our community.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued a specific Health Advisory recommending urgent action to increase COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant and breastfeeding people. Check out CDC’s updated guidance on COVID-19 Vaccines While Pregnant or Breastfeeding.

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