PATERSON, NJ- City officials and health advocates gathered on the steps of Paterson’s Department of Health on Thursday to announce aggressive new and innovative strategies to reduce the infant mortality rate, specifically among African Americans, in the city.

According to officials from the Partnership of Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey, the non-profit planning agency that secured the New Jersey Department of Health grant for and will spearhead the program, there were 5.5 infant deaths, before their first birthday, for every 1,000 live births between 2012 and 2016 in Paterson compared to 4.3 deaths in Passaic County.

The average number of deaths among  babies born to non-Hispanic Black or African American mothers rises to 8.7 per 1,000, Marie Kinsella, director of community programs for the Partnership said adding that this effort, called the Healthy Women Healthy Families Initiative, will “level the playing field.”

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The initiative will include the launch of a  new prenatal care model called Centering Pregnancy at the Paterson Community Health Centers which focuses on increasing the amount of time women spend with their healthcare providers, learning about healthy pregnancy, infant development, and the health of their newborn, and support additional outreach workers at the New Destiny Family Success Center who identify and support women and families who are not receiving regular healthcare during their pregnancies and beyond. In addition to health insurance enrollment and reproductive health planning the program will also include breastfeeding support groups aimed at increasing the breastfeeding rate among non-Hispanic Black or African American women.

Both Mayor Andre Sayegh and his wife Farhanna, joined by their infant son Ayden, spoke of being “blessed with three children” with the First Lady adding that “too many Paterson children don’t get to see their first birthday,” and that through the “total team effort” being launched the alarming numbers will turn around.

“There is a huge discrepancy in infant mortality rates in Paterson compared to more affluent communities, and it is completely unacceptable,” Mayor Sayegh noted.  “I applaud the work of the Partnership in addressing the need for more education, support, and access to prenatal care in our city.”

“If we don’t have healthy mothers we can’t have health kids,” 5th Ward Councilman Luis Velez said. “We are ready to confront this issue with action,” he added before imploring “everyone to get on board with the progress of this program.”

Referring to the earlier reported statistics Carolyn McCombs, executive director of New Destiny Family Success Centers said that Paterson is better than the “unacceptable mortality rate.”

“We can overcome this.”


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