Local non-profit calls on lawmakers, governor to reduce Mississippi’s fetal mortality rate

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 10:59 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A recent CDC report points to Mississippi as having the nation’s highest fetal mortality rate, and one Jackson non-profit is working to change that.

The Sister’s in Birth clinic’s model integrates clinical care and community health services that have been shown to significantly reduce birth disparities.

That includes issues like premature birth, low birth weight, and C-sections among the Medicaid population.

The CDC data shows Mississippi had 737 fetal deaths between 2017 and 2019, which is a mortality rate of 6.6. That’s due to complications like stillbirths and miscarriages but not abortions.

Sister’s in Birth is addressing that issue through the work of community health workers, which according to the non-profit’s founder, are public health professionals who provide non-medical, evidence-based services such as health education, coaching, social support, etc. to help at-risk groups adopt healthy behaviors that can prevent poor health and birth outcomes.

“We’re educating, we’re encouraging, we’re empowering,” said Community Health Worker Yalonda Davis. “We’re inspiring moms to be the best rendition of themselves.”

Community health workers like Davis make themselves available for service all day, every day - alleviating the anxiousness that comes with being a first-time mother and providing services that most wouldn’t get at a typical OB-GYN.

“They make sure we eat right, they make sure we’re exercising, and they keep in contact with us,” said expectant mother Charia Mason. “They’re always within our reach to contact and call.”

It’s the extra support that mothers like Mason say everyone needs but especially Black women.

“Black women are always going through birth defects or low rates in C-sections or miscarriages and things like that,” Mason said.

The organization’s founder, Getty Israel, said despite the number of mothers they are able to help deliver healthy babies, they need the state legislature to provide more help.

“We need for state legislators, in January 2022, to require the Mississippi managed care organizations that I just mentioned - United Healthcare, Mississippi Magnolia, and any others that may come to the state - to pay for the services that we know are evidence based,” Israel said.

As it stands now, Sisters in Birth provides free services to moms but still have to absorb the cost, meaning the government reaps the benefits of services that they aren’t funding.

“Each time we reduce a C-section, each time we prevent a C-section, or premature birth, or baby for being born low birth weight, we save the state money and save the taxpayers money,” Israel said.

She added that if lawmakers truly care about the unborn, they’ll support clinics like hers to ensure mothers have healthy pregnancies.

“If they want to bring down birth disparities, including abortion, bring in more certified nurse midwives to the state of Mississippi. You will see numbers just drop,” she said.

Israel said Black babies in Mississippi account for 40% of births but 60% of deaths.

She’s calling on the governor and state lawmakers to do what’s necessary to bring those numbers down.

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