Regional Case Studies
Toledo Community Foundation
Babies born early or weighing very little may never have normal lives. Not only is it painful and complicated for the parents, it is tragic for the children who may never be fully healthy. The financial cost of a low weight birth is also substantial. Direct health care costs for premature babies during the first year average $41,610 compared to $2,830 for those born healthy and full term. Unfortunately, the rate of low weight births in Lucas County is among the highest in Ohio. In certain zip codes, the low weight births can be twice the average rate.
As a result of these findings, the Toledo Community Foundation took a leadership role to fill a void of programming and funding. The Lucas County Initiative to Improve Birth Outcomes is a community partnership aimed at reducing the incidence of low birth weight babies in targeted, high-risk areas of Toledo. Through the program, those at risk are identified, connected to care, and the outcomes measured for efficacy. "Prevention is always better than treatment," says Elizabeth Ruppert, M.D., pediatrician and former member of the board of Toledo Community Foundation. "We know that today we can make changes and the fastest way to do that is to close the gap between first class comprehensive medical care and the delivery of that care."
The collaboration of physicians, hospitals, clinicians, caseworkers, community funders and public health officials establishes care plans specific for each woman. Care plans may include medical care, housing assistance, childcare access and food assistance. The initiative has even attracted the attention of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) who has provided consultative and technical assistance to the task force. HRSA plans to use the Lucas County initiative as part of a national demonstration project as the agency redefines its approach to conducting community performance reviews. HRSA will also use the local initiative as a pilot for funding programs based on results, not only activities.
"We are thrilled with the program," claims Keith Burwell, president of the Toledo Community Foundation. "We believe this initiative has the capacity to not only significantly reduce the number of low weight births in Lucas County, but it will also have positive impacts on infant mortality and prenatal care," he adds. "The highest risk populations, including teens, low-income and African American women, stand to benefit most from the initiative as it will focus its efforts on these populations, which are among the hardest to reach."
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