Philadelphia Program Focusing on Infant Mortality Gets Boost From Local Government, Partners

Kos Temenes
By Kos Temenes
March 24, 2023USshare
Philadelphia Program Focusing on Infant Mortality Gets Boost From Local Government, Partners
Illustration picture shows a doctor doing a ultrasound examination during a visit of a pregnant woman to her gynaecologist, in Mechelen, Jan. 31, 2019. (Jasper Jacobs/AFP via Getty Images)

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has announced it will significantly contribute to the Philly Joy Bank, a pilot program aimed at reducing racial disparities in infant mortality.

The contribution will be supported by the William Penn Foundation and Spring Point Partners.

The funding will provide a guaranteed monthly income for over 200 pregnant Philadelphians.

The incentive comes with no-strings-attached, allowing participants to use the cash in any way they see fit, said a statement from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

“Infant mortality in Philadelphia is a solvable crisis. We know that being able to better support pregnant women and new parents helps keep babies alive,” according to Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole.

Philadelphia has the U.S.’ highest rate of infant mortality in the first year of life, with local authorities saying that the mortality rate is four times higher in black infants than in white infants.

The guaranteed income program’s focus on addressing this and other issues will be underlined by voluntary support such as benefits and financial counseling, home visiting, lactation support, and doulas.

Shawn McCaney, Executive Director of the William Penn Foundation, said the contribution will help parents get the resources they need.

“The William Penn Foundation has long understood that parents are our children’s first teachers. And, just like the case with classroom teachers, these ‘in home teachers’ must have the resources they need to create safe, stimulating, fun, and educational environments,” he explained.

According to the Philadelphia Community Action Network (CAN), monthly cash supplements during pregnancy and the first year of a child’s life would relieve one of the most significant sources of stress for pregnant women by providing direct financial assistance.

To date, the Philadelphia Health Department has received over $3 million to support the Philly Joy Bank. Beyond this, the city hopes to secure $6 million as a fundraising goal and launch the program early next year.

Eligible candidates must be pregnant and must have a household income of less than $100,000 annually. In addition, they must live in one of the three Philly neighborhoods with the highest rates of very low birth weight, namely Cobbs Creek, Strawberry Mansion, Nicetown-Tioga.

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