$1M grant will fund program to prevent disparities in infant mortality

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Spectrum Health has been granted over $1 million for its participation in a program aimed at eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in birth outcomes.

The Health and Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded the grant to Spectrum’s role in the Strong Beginnings program, which is in collaboration with the Kent County Health Department, Grand Rapids African American Health Institute and other health partners across West Michigan.

The grant will fund the program for the next five years, according to Spectrum Health Healthier Communities Vice President Ken Fawcett.

The program provides outreach, case management, education, mental health services, and a fatherhood program. Strong Beginnings serves more than 1,200 families in Kent County each year. According to state data, the program has prevented at least five infant deaths per year in the county.

“By providing home visits by teams of community health workers, nurses, social workers and therapists, Strong Beginnings seeks to improve birth outcomes and eliminate racial disparities in infant mortality,” Strong Beginnings Program Director Peggy Vander Meulen said. “Father engagement, community education and the promotion of racial equity are other key components.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, said the program is critical for saving vulnerable lives.

“This grant will help improve pregnancy outcomes, reduce infant mortality, and help women, infants, and families in Kent County reach their fullest potential. By reducing disparities, improving treatment options, and providing additional resources to families, Strong Beginnings is helping make West Michigan a stronger community and an even better place to call home.”

The program also provides behavioral health services. According to Fawcett, this reduces the stigma of receiving this kind of care.

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