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CAN Addressing Philly Infant Mortality

June 28, 2016

With the infant mortality rate the highest in Philadelphia compared to all other large U.S. cities,   the Division of Maternal, Child, and Family of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health is taking action by bringing the key stakeholders together. Through an innovative collective impact initiative, a Community Action Network (CAN) has formed through the federal Healthy Start program.

With an overall aim to reduce infant mortality rates, the Philadelphia community represented through the CAN has identified four prominent areas of need to tackle: coordinating home visiting and early childhood education programs, improving care for mothers with perinatal mental health needs, supporting fathers to be active partners and parents, and increasing community support for young families.

Joan Bloch, PhD, an associate professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions and Dornsife School of Public Health, is one of the co-leaders of the Access to Care Group. The action-based work group prioritized thinking of new ways to ensure women have access to the different services they need when pregnant and caring for their infants. She is a passionate stakeholder trying to incite change to make Philadelphia a healthier place for mothers caring for their children and families.  She is fully committed to contributing all she can—and to get students involved in ways they can help, which she has done.

“Philadelphia’s infant maternal mortality rate is the highest of any large city in our country, which is obviously a big problem,” said Bloch. “Healthy Start’s CAN really aims at decreasing infant mortality rates by addressing some of the flaws in our health care system, and city as a whole, to improve the help of mothers caring for their infants, children and families.”

Bloch has a great deal of experience dealing with this problem, and has dedicated her nursing practice, teaching, and research  to improve maternal-infant outcomes since becoming a nurse in Philadelphia nearly 40 years ago. “I’ve been a nurse in the city of Philadelphia since 1978,” said Bloch. “All of my work has essentially been involved with promoting optimal maternal infant health outcomes and care to the Philadelphia population.”

Bloch cites the Pope as her inspiration to get more directly involved in efforts to decrease the rate of infant mortality, and became even more motivated to act after his recent visit to Philadelphia. “I was inspired to approach the City at the beginning of this year by the Pope and his commitment to service, which is really why I chose nursing as a profession,” said Bloch.

A pioneer nurse practitioner who has been after being heavily involved in multiple clinics and initiatives over the course of her career, Bloch was a natural choice for a leader one of Healthy Start’s action groups.

Bloch has been extremely excited about the prospect of working to truly make a difference, and is confident that Healthy Start’s work will perpetuate a great deal of positive change toward providing Philadelphia’s mothers the support and accommodation they deserve.

“I think that addressing the high rates and helping inequalities particular to maternal infant mortality rates is an issue of social justice, and I think it needs our full attention,” said Bloch. “We all have really important work that we all agreed was a priority, and I believe that we are going to be very successful.” 

With the help of the Philadelphia Healthy Start Community Action Network, and dedicated, passionate individuals such as Bloch, Philadelphia is on its way to becoming a safer, healthier environment for mothers and their children.

By Jacob Cushing ‘19