Local experts convene to discuss barriers, solutions
— The Women’s Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation convened a group of nearly 100 health and social service professionals Sept. 14 to discuss issues related to infant mortality in Summit County.
The 2017 Forum on Women and Girls, held at the American Red Cross in Akron, brought together experts, service providers and community leaders to talk about the causes surrounding infant deaths and to brainstorm potential solutions.
Experts from Summit County Public Health and the Minority Behavioral Health Group facilitated a conversation about the growing racial disparity between infant mortality rates in the African-American community and their white counterparts.
“Our black babies are dying at two times the rate of our white babies,” said Shaleeta Smith, community health supervisor at Summit County Public Health, who cited statistics showing more than 12 out of every 1,000 black babies die before their first birthday.
Dr. Tania Lodge, clinical director of the Minority Behavioral Health Group, spoke about the importance of addressing the root causes of infant mortality, pointing to poverty as a key factor.
“Cyclical poverty particularly affects the African-American community, and this leads to chronic maternal stress, which leads to premature birth, which leads to infant mortality,” she said. “It’s imperative that we take a systematic approach (instead of applying) Band-Aids over large wounds.”
Participants later met in small groups to discuss the barriers that prevent women from accessing needed services, including transportation, employment, awareness of resources and personal health. They also identified key stakeholders and potential ways to overcome those barriers through changes in policy, community outreach and targeted funding.
“It’s not just awareness but also access. Cultural barriers are really important,” said Jolene Lane, chief diversity officer at the University of Akron. “We need policies to bridge the gaps between those who are affected and those who can help.”
Information and ideas shared at the forum will ultimately shape the Women’s Endowment Fund’s grant decisions and help the fund focus its resources on programs that are making significant progress on infant mortality. Nonprofit organizations are encouraged to apply for a grant beginning Oct. 12. To learn more about the Women’s Endowment Fund and the programs it supports, visit www.womensendowmentfund.org.
Major sponsors of the forum included the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation and Signet Jewelers. Stay informed about future events by registering for the Women’s Endowment Fund’s e-news at www.akroncf.org/WEFnews.
The Women’s Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation was established in 1993 as a permanent endowment committed to encouraging the advancement of local women and girls and their growth as philanthropists. To date, the fund has grown to nearly $3.2 million and awarded more than $960,000 in grants to programs that uplift and empower women and girls throughout Summit County. Contributions of any amount are welcome and can be made online at www.akroncf.org/give/WEF or mailed to Women’s Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation, 345 W. Cedar St., Akron, OH 44307. For info, call (330) 376-8522 or visit www.womensendowmentfund.org.
Celebrating 62 years of building community philanthropy, Akron Community Foundation embraces and enhances the work of charitable people who make a permanent commitment to the good of the community. In 1955, a $1 million bequest from the estate of Edwin Shaw established the community foundation. As of June 30, 2017, it is a philanthropic endowment of nearly $206 million with a growing family of more than 570 funds established by charitable people and organizations from all walks of life. The community foundation and its funds welcome gifts of all kinds, including cash, bequests, stock, real estate, life insurance and retirement assets, just to name a few. To date, the community foundation’s funds have awarded more than $143 million in grants to qualified nonprofit organizations. For more information about Akron Community Foundation or to learn more about creating your own charitable fund, call (330) 376-8522 or visit www.akroncf.org.