Guest Post: Access to health care and the effect on infant mortality

September is National Infant Mortality Awareness Month. The Coalition focuses on  preventing infant mortality by reflecting on efforts made in the community to provide a healthy start for every baby in Northeast Florida, so they can celebrate their first birthday and many more. We recognize that it takes more than one organization to make a difference. Moms, dads and families should not have to parent without support. It takes a village of people advocating for the babies before and after they are born.

Xiomara Lemmey is an advanced registered nurse practitioner who practices at our Magnolia Project women’s health clinic and provides services to members in the urban core community that otherwise would not have easily accessible health care. Without proper prenatal care, babies have a higher chance of being born unhealthy or dying before the age of one. Xiomara has written this post based off her experiences.

The Healthy start Coalition, in partnership with the Florida Department of Health in Duval County and the Magnolia Project, is committed to increasing public knowledge and improve birth outcomes in our area. The United State’s Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has established a goal to decrease the infant mortality rate to 6.0 per 1000 births by 2020 – across all race and ethnic populations.

Although the CDC records show that there has been an overall decrease  in the infant mortality rate, Florida ranks above the national average with 6.1 deaths compared to 5.9 deaths per 1,000 births in 2016 (CDC data 2016).  The alarming factor is, when broken down by race/ethnicity in non-Hispanic blacks, these numbers almost double to 11.3 per 1,000 babies.

When attending the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetrics and Neonatal Nurses Conference in June 2018, I committed to #NotOnMyWatch. This was a pledge I made with other women’s health providers, midwives, prenatal educators and obstetric nurses to ensure we continue to advocate for maternal health and infant health especially among our most vulnerable population.  

As I reflect on the theme of this year’s campaign Celebrate day 366…every baby deserves a chance –  I reflected on my own experience of delivering a preterm infant born at UF Health – at 28 weeks and at 2lb and 6oz big. I look back and remember the goals of trying to make sure my daughter met her milestones. For me, it was most important that she make it to her first birthday, and we just celebrated her thirteenth birthday. I’m invested to ensure we utilize all of our community resources to improve the outcome for our moms and babies and bridge the gap of infant mortality rate among the community I serve.

The Magnolia Project clinic provides access to women who normally would not have immediate access to prenatal care. Through providing these prenatal care, education and social services early in pregnancy serves, we improve birth outcomes. Through community partnerships built with FDOH Duval, WIC and Healthy Start, we are able to provide prenatal; postpartum; family planning; case management; safe sleep class; nutrition counseling; home-visiting; and women’s health education services right in our community.

I think of the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” as we continue to safeguard our babies and see them celebrate day 366.