These women are taking to the streets to fight infant mortality

Trusted Links, a mentoring project in Camden, Trenton, and Newark, seeks to educate women about the risk factors that lead to infant mortality.

When LaVonia Abavana was pregnant with the last of her three children, she was stressed and depressed, losing and gaining weight rapidly as she tried to balance parenting, a split from her partner and running a household.

Her son, who’s now 9, was born with a birth defect: a heart murmur. He continues to suffer from Tourettes Syndrome.

Abavana said she didn’t understand how letting herself go could affect the health of her baby, after already carrying two healthy kids. That’s why the 46-year-old woman was drawn to Trusted Links, a mentoring program in Camden under the Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative (SNJPC) that seeks to educate women about infant mortality and the behaviors that contribute to it.

“I learned so much I didn’t know about infant mortality,” she said of her training. “I think it’s a great program because in a poor environment, people don’t always know how to stay healthy.”

So she’s spent the past two months out at a bus stop near H.B. Wilson Elementary School, talking to young parents as they drop their kids off or wait for a bus to get to work. As a Trusted Link, it’s her job to quiz them on knowledge surrounding prenatal health and early parenting, and then teach them the importance of avoiding alcohol or drug use while pregnant, maintaining a healthy diet, seeking regular prenatal and having a support system to help them.

The project is one of three in the state, with the others in Trenton and Newark, cities where pregnant women and their babies are considered to be at high-risk for low birth rates and other complications that can lead to elevated rates infant mortality.

The state’s infant mortality rate is among the lowest in the nation, at 4.8 deaths per 1,000 births, according to the New Jersey State Health Assessment Data. But that number is higher in the black community and triples in Camden alone, reaching 15 deaths for every 1,000 births between 2013 and 2015, according to the data.

SNJPC has long noted the undue risk minority and low-income mothers face, and had attempted a similar program a few years ago, sending workers to nail salons, beauty parlors and other places women often go to educate the staff, hoping that staff would pass along the information to the women who frequent the businesses.

But last year, they had a new idea: cut out the middle man — or in this case, woman.

“We decided to go directly to women themselves,” said Barbara May, SNJPC’s director of policy and program planning. “What we know is that, often, and this is true for all of us, when there’s something we don’t know about, we often go to people that we know and trust before we go to a physician or a nurse.”

So far, that’s worked. In three different training sessions in Camden, the …read more

Source:: New Jersey Real-Time News


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