Organizational Leadership Students Work to Lower Infant Mortality Rates in Cincinnati

The average rate of infant mortality in the U.S. is six per 1,000 live births. In Hamilton County, that rate almost doubles to 10—the highest in all of Ohio.

In an effort to curb infant deaths, Cynthia Smith of Hamilton County’s Women and Infant Vitality Network (WIVN) looked to the University of Cincinnati’s

Center for Service-Learning & Civic Engagement

for assistance in collecting data to explore factors that might contribute to infant mortality. After getting matched up with

Center for Organizational Leadership (COL)

program director Stacie Holloway in the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, the two decided to collaborate.

The end result: students in COL’s research methods course (OLHR351) using hands-on data collection in an upperclassmen-level required class to help stem the rates of infant mortality.

“When I met with Cynthia, she told me she wanted to collect data regarding the experience of care women who have had a recent pregnancy received.  As she told me about the project, it seemed like a perfect fit for my research methods students.”

During the spring quarter class, students first earned certification by the Institutional Review Board to conduct research on human subjects before going out to local Head Start Centers to interview mothers. In a partnership with the Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Training at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the students were able to offer free children’s books to participants as an incentive.

By surveying women about their education, finances, housing and family makeup, the students were able to get a better picture of local women’s views on health and social services available to them before, during and after pregnancy.

“I visited the Theodore Berry Head Start on Court St. and surveyed about 18 moms in two days. We asked them questions about their pregnancy care—it was really hands on,” says Zina Iyango, a third-year organizational leadership major. “A lot of these women I worked with are at or below the poverty line, and it was a big shock to me. I didn’t even know infant fatalities were a big issue, but I’m glad I had this opportunity. It’s made me more aware of issues in the community.”

After collecting the data, the students analyzed their findings and presented the results to Smith and the other partners on May 31.

Of their recommendations, the students proposed a one-stop service location for busy moms that would allow them to seek efficient health and social services.

“We didn’t see as many negative comments as we thought we would. We didn’t find that there was a lack of access. What the students did recommend to me was a bundle of services, such as housing or food assistance nearby after a medical appointment,” Smith says. “Bombarding them with as many services as possible in one trip, as they are often traveling with two or three children and those trips are not easy to make, especially on public transportation.”

This fall Smith will continue working with students in the

Department of Psychology

as they plan focus groups for the same study. Ultimately, she will take all student considerations to a community action team, comprised of nurses, social workers and volunteers, to implement in the community.

“UC has been a great resource for us as a struggling nonprofit,” Smith says. “But it also helps the students by expanding their horizons; they get to learn more about the community where they are studying. They’re exposed to a health issue they weren’t familiar with before and a culture they may know nothing about. It’s a win-win situation.”

Holloway echoes Smith’s sentiments: “Working with the WIVN has been a great experience for our students. It gave them community-based training. A lot of our students want to continue working in nonprofit and community organizations, so we are promoting a community-engaged mindset. It teaches them that research is important in their careers.”

Iyango agrees. “The class was definitely an eye-opener,” she says. “I didn’t think I would like research but I never thought it would be like this. It’s made me consider doing research as a career.”

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