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Queens Village program focused on reducing racial disparity in infant mortality

(CNN Newsource/CBS Newspath, file)
(CNN Newsource/CBS Newspath, file)
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CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Cincinnati played host to Black women from around the country in a critical fight to give more newborns nationwide a chance at reaching their first birthday.

Queens Village, a supportive community designed to empower Black women, now has 13 chapters in places like Fresno, Calif.. and Kansas City. But it started in Cincinnati five years ago in the home of Dr. Meredith Shockley-Smith, the executive director of Cradle Cincinnati.

“It spread to the community center and neighborhoods where infant mortality was high,” she explained.

Shockley-Smith knew to save babies required education and support for mothers. Work is happening to connect moms with things like a crib, but it goes much deeper.

“She was like, 'Not only are you at the space where you are supposed to create that safe space for people to come and receive help, but you’re Black and you're a Black woman.'... 'Come on, we’ve got you sis, we’re gonna make this happen and make it work,” said Brein Everhart, who co-leads the Queens Village chapter in Butler County.

Along with Dominique Johnson, Everhart does that in jobs at the Butler County Health District. Johnson says she can relate to the moms who are experiencing the heartbreak of losing a baby.

“I have been there and if I had the support that we can now offer them, it would have been a different situation. So I wanted to make sure that I'm able to do that. My son passed away three hours after birth,” Johnson said.

The leading causes of death for babies are preterm birth, unsafe sleeping and birth defects.

Ten years ago, Cradle Cincinnati started because the area had the second-highest infant mortality rate in the nation.

“Now we’ve seen the lowest at 6.8 that we’ve ever seen in Hamilton County," said Shockley-Smith. "There is work to do for certain. We will not rest until we save every baby.”

It’s a heavy emotional job that needs love and laughter to do.

The summit continues Saturday and includes other Cincinnati leaders like politicans and workers with the Ohio Department of Health.

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If any mothers need help, from a crib to a listening ear, call Cradle Cincinnati at 513-667-2157.

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