In honor of Black Maternal Health Week (April 11-17, 2022), Ready, Set, Soar Ohio has invited local Black-led organizations and organizations committed to advancing health equity to participate in a blog series sharing how their work supports Black maternal health and improves outcomes for Black mothers.
Founded and led by Black Mamas Matter Alliance, Black Maternal Health Week is a week of awareness and community building intended to deepen the national conversation about Black maternal health in the United States; amplify community-driven policy, research, and care solutions; center the voices of Black mothers, women, families, and stakeholders; and more.
The blog featured below was written by Shaleeta Smith, MPH, Director of Family Health at Summit County Public Health.
Summit County Public Health (SCPH) works with community agencies to assist pregnant individuals who are in need of services and resources. In late 2019, through a routine screening process, it was identified that approximate 60% of the women screened by SCPH were experiencing some type of housing instability during their pregnancy. This became an alarming statistic and a driving factor throughout the Maternal Child Health/Infant Vitality work in the community. National research shows that experiencing housing instability during pregnancy is associated with a wide range of adverse maternal and infant health outcomes, including preterm births, low birthweight, and delivery complications.
SCPH and the City of Akron co-chair a collective impact collaborative called Full Term First Birthday Greater Akron (FTFB). The collaborative advocates for policies to improve maternal and infant health outcomes, educating our community on programs that promote healthy full-term pregnancies and ensure every child celebrates their first birthday.
SCPH and FTFB collaborated with Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA) to implement a pilot program to assist with priority housing for pregnant individuals who are in need. The pilot program allows for two preference points to be added for applicants to prioritize pregnant women who are in Imminent Risk of Homelessness as well as provide wraparound services through designated FTFB services and programming.
SCPH is responsible for authorizing eligibility into the program as well as the monitoring of outcomes, compliance, and program interaction. SCPH will use the following guidance to determine "imminent risk of homelessness” per the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) definition:
Individual or family who will imminently lose their primary nighttime residence, provided that: (i) Residence will be lost within 14 days of the date of application for homeless assistance; (ii) No subsequent residence has been identified; and (iii) The individual or family lacks the resources or support networks needed to obtain other permanent housing.
A 27-year-old client called SCPH after being referred by United Way 211. The client was pregnant and currently living in her car with her 2-year-old. SCPH was able to connect the client to transitional housing within 24 hours until permanent housing could be identified. The priority housing application was completed and submitted for consideration. The client was contacted within 30 days of referral, once AMHA completed eligibility. Upon client’s approval, the client was offered a housing choice voucher and has found a house. The client has obtained affordable income-based housing and the family is doing extremely well.
To learn more about Summit County Public Health, please visit https://www.scph.org/. If you are in need of pregnancy resources please feel free to reach out to our Navigators at, 330-926-5700 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Shaleeta Smith is the Director of Family Health at Summit County Health Department. She is a graduate of the University of Toledo where she received her Bachelors of Science in Biology and her Master’s in Public Health, Epidemiology. Within her role, she oversees services and programming that focuses on women, families, infants, senior services, harm reduction, housing, and minority health. Ms. Smith and her team work closely with the City of Akron, social service agencies, grassroots organizations, and the hospital system to improve health outcomes in Summit County.