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School of Medicine takes a lead role in Cleveland's infant mortality initiative

July 27, 2016

Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine will serve as a lead partner for "First Year Cleveland," a project aimed at reducing infant mortality in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County.

The project, which has been awarded more than $2.9 million from the Ohio Department of Medicaid, is a collaboration of government, non-profit, and health care organizations. In addition to the recent Medicaid award, the city of Cleveland has set aside $500,000 this year for the initiative and Cuyahoga County has committed $1.5 million.

"I am pleased that Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine will be playing a prime role in the First Year Cleveland initiative to address the infant mortality crisis here in Cleveland," said Mayor Frank G. Jackson. "Case's work complements the long-term efforts of our Department of Public Health."

Case Western Reserve University's in-kind support as fiscal agent for a three-year period is valued at in excess of $450,000. The medical school is donating free office space and equipment for First Year Cleveland and providing staffing expertise.

Cleveland's infant mortality rate -- the number of babies who die before reaching their first birthday -- is roughly 13 per 1,000 live births, more than double the national average.

"As a matter of social justice, we have an obligation to change these numbers," said Pamela B. Davis, MD, PhD, dean of the School of Medicine and senior vice president for medical affairs. "We have taken a number of steps at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine to help end massive health disparities such as this and are honored to add our knowledge and skills to this enormously important cause. Our faculty and staff are devoted to the Cleveland community and I am proud of their willingness to share their expertise with our outstanding partners."

All grants and awards received and distributed by First Year Cleveland will be processed by Case Western Reserve University in its role of fiscal agent. Additionally, the medical school's staff members will assist in these fiscal activities:
  • Managing and assisting in reporting on governmental and private grants
  • Disbursing funds to community, health care and other organizations serving as contractors
  • Maintaining accounting of all revenues and expenditures
  • Preparing and distributing financial reports
  • Studying and reporting on infant mortality hot spots and data trends

"This kind of civic mindedness is what makes Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine a valued and valuable part of our community," said Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley. "We look forward to working with Case on this vital project."

The in-kind support incorporates time commitments from a team of senior School of Medicine staff members. The school's First Year Cleveland members include: Michael Konstan, MD, vice dean for translational research and professor of pediatrics; Elizabeth Littman, senior director of government relations and strategic initiatives; and David Silvaggio, director of operations in the department of pediatrics.

Their activities will include helping design the First Year Cleveland operating and staffing plans as well as assisting in recruiting and hiring an executive director and staff members. In addition, the university's Office of General Counsel will provide legal assistance.

"We have the best healthcare in the world. Yet we have one of the worst infant mortality rates. I am excited that we have launched a comprehensive collaborative effort to attack this community problem," said Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish.
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