September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month. While the overall rate of infant deaths in the United States has improved in recent years, the rate of infant deaths within certain racial, ethnic, and geographic populations remains disproportionately high. However, there are a number of initiatives that have been working to address these disparities and the good news is that they are making progress!

One example of such an effort is Missouri Foundation for Health’s Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative (IMRI), which was established in 2013 to address the disproportionately high rates of infant death in portions of St. Louis and the six counties that make up Missouri’s Bootheel. Bootheel Babies and Families (BBF) is leading this work in rural southeastern Missouri. With the help of County-level Hubs, community members, businesses and organizations, they are committed to reducing infant deaths overall by 15% by 2022 and closing the gap in disparities by race. Since they began their work in 2013, the infant death rate has been steadily decreasing and they exceeded their goal already in both 2017 and 2018.

So what is contributing to their success and how might their efforts be replicated in other similar communities? That is the very question our Consilience team has had the opportunity to work with BBF to surface. As part of this engagement, we are teaming with the six County BBF Hub leaders across the region to identify and institutionalize health equity principles. Our team is creating “equity data profiles” for the region and counties, with the goal of better understanding the core drivers of inequity and disparity at the local level.

Equipped with these insights, County health departments,  local nonprofit partners, and community members work together to identify root causes of inequity and co-design changes to cross-organizational processes, procedures, and resource allocations to improve maternal and child health outcomes and eliminate these disparities. We are also working with local organizations to implement a Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) framework for equity, so the gains are maintained long-term.