Recent studies from across the country have helped solidify the link between housing instability—for example, substandard conditions, homelessness or needing to move regularly—and poor infant health. In a pilot program based in Ohio called Healthy Beginnings at Home, organizers wanted to test the impact of providing pregnant women struggling to find stable homes with rental assistance and other services to secure their housing situations. In the group of mothers in the pilot program, there were no infant deaths, and there were more full-term healthy births than in a control group. The pilot group also saw shorter stays in neonatal intensive care and a reduced need for emergency health care.
The Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI has received a five-year, $2.4 million federal grant to launch an initiative to reduce Indianapolis’ infant mortality rate. And it specifically will address housing instability. Called the Housing Equity for Infant Health Initiative, the program will provide support for pregnant women and mothers with infants under 1 year old. The organizers then will evaluate the program’s impact on birth outcomes and health care costs.
CareSource, a not-for-profit that provides health care insurance coverage through public programs including Medicaid and Medicare, was a key participant in the Ohio-based pilot of Healthy Beginnings at Home. It is also a key player in bringing Healthy Beginnings at Home to this Initiative in Indianapolis. A second major piece of the initiative is focused on health justice. Led by the Indiana Justice Project, it will combine legal education, direct legal services, strategic litigation, and advocacy to improve both housing stability and housing conditions for pregnant Hoosiers.
In this week’s edition of the IBJ Podcast, host Mason King digs into the details with two guests: Dr. Cameual Wright, an OBGYN and vice president and market chief medical officer with CareSource; and Jack E. Turman Jr. He’s the director of the Housing Equity for Infant Health Initiative and the Grassroots Maternal and Child Health Initiative, as well as a professor in the Fairbanks School of Public Health. They cover the link between unstable housing and poor infant health, the difficulty in quantifying the extent of the problem, and the hope that the initiative will lead to larger efforts across the state.
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