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Health Care Coalition gets $3.5 million grant

Backed by a $3.5 million federal grant, the Health Care Coalition of Southern Oregon will do its part to reduce the infant mortality rate in rural parts of Douglas, Jackson and Josephine counties.

The organization was one of 87 to be awarded a Healthy Start grant earlier this month. The grant will be administered over the next five years — $532,000 the first year and $750,000 for the next four years — and account for about 75 percent of the organization’s total funding.

Maggie Sullivan, executive director of the coalition, said this is the fourth time it has been awarded the grant.

The infant mortality rate is typically higher among poor women, women living in rural communities and women of color, Sullivan said.

There are 14.84 deaths per 1,000 infants born in 12 rural ZIP codes in Douglas, Jackson and Josephine counties, Sullivan said.

“That comes out to about 26 infant deaths over a three-year time span in those regions,” she said.

Healthy Start staff work to identify at-risk women — preconception if possible — and link them with community health services. Risk factors include smoking, substance abuse, mental health challenges, domestic violence, adverse childhood experiences and poor nutrition, to name a few.

“Really, we are trying to improve the birth rate, improve early prenatal care, prevent birth to adolescents and facilitate access to health and social services for women and families living in the rural areas of Southern Oregon,” Sullivan said.

The local Healthy Start program serves about 500 women a year, helping them enroll in health insurance, linking them to a medical home, providing case management and parent education, promoting father involvement and ensuring health education in the areas of breast feeding, substance abuse, nutrition, family planning and depression.

Reach reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.