INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI has received a five-year, $2.4 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to launch a housing equity initiative to reduce Indianapolis’ infant mortality rate.
The Housing Equity for Infant Health Initiative will address housing, a key social determinant of poor infant health. Housing instability has been linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes.
The initiative will provide support in finding housing and navigating the legal system to pregnant and parenting women in Marion County experiencing housing instability or poor housing quality. Using evidence-based research, the initiative will address city, state and federal policy and systemic barriers that keep women and parents from having quality and stable housing.
“Access to safe, secure, quality housing is a right we believe in for all moms and babies, as we know that this is a foundation that promotes maternal and infant health and well-being,” said Jack Turman Jr., director of the Housing Equity for Infant Health Initiative and the Grassroots Maternal and Child Health Initiative, and professor in the Fairbanks School of Public Health. “We are honored to have been selected to carry out this important work of advancing infant health equity across Indianapolis.
“All of our incredible partners worked so hard alongside us to put this grant together. We look forward to working to improve our city’s infant and maternal health outcomes by building systems that support housing equity for our most vulnerable moms and babies.”
Infant mortality is viewed as an indicator of health status across the world. Indiana has the 10th highest infant mortality rate in the nation, according to America’s Health Rankings. Black Hoosiers face double the rate of infant mortality when compared to white and Hispanic populations in the state.
“The critical work of providing stability can now begin on a scale that can have generational impact on some of the most vulnerable resources we have: mothers and babies. This is beyond exciting,” said Kelly Evans, who is a grassroots maternal and child health leader at the Fairbanks School and the community solutions and entrepreneurship center coordinator at the Edna Martin Christian Center in Indianapolis.
The Housing Equity for Infant Health Initiative will bring Healthy Beginnings at Home – an evidence-based intervention for pregnant women experiencing housing instability – to Marion County. The intervention will provide housing navigation services, 24 months of tapering rental assistance and housing case management to pregnant women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in Marion County. The initiative has set a goal to serve at least 100 families over the grant period.
Fairbanks faculty will partner with CareSource to evaluate the program’s impact on birth outcomes and health care costs. CareSource was a key partner in the Ohio-based pilot of Healthy Beginnings at Home, which demonstrated success in reducing adverse birth outcomes in a recent, randomized control trial in Columbus, Ohio, where the intervention group saw no infant deaths and more full-term, healthy births. It also resulted in substantially shorter NICU stays and reduced need for emergency health care and shelter services.
CareSource Foundation has also pledged $250,000 to support the initiative. Merchants Affordable Housing Corp. will provide navigation services and in-kind support.
The Housing Equity for Infant Health Initiative will also focus on legal system interventions to support stable, quality housing for pregnant Hoosiers. This portion of the initiative will be led by the Indiana Justice Project.
The full initiative will be overseen by a steering committee that includes representation from the Indiana Department of Health Maternal and Child Health Division, the City of Indianapolis Office of Public Health & Safety, the Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition, the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention & Prevention and Wheeler Mission.