MACON, Ga. — Dr. Bryant Smalley and Dr. Jacob Warren from Mercer’s School of Medicine received a $5.5 million federal grant.
They’re putting that money toward a new 5-year program that will help prevent maternal and infant mortality in seven rural counties.
“We’re talking about infant mortality — this is a baby who dies within its first year of life,” Warren said.
Dr. Warren says Georgia ranks in the top 5 states with the highest infant mortality rates and number 1 for maternity mortality.
“Georgia currently ranks as 50th in the nation, this is the death of a mother while pregnant or within about a month after the pregnancy,” Warren said.
Smalley says the counties they’re focusing on have a 50% higher maternal mortality rate and a 25% higher infant mortality rate than the rest of the state.
“Rural communities, minority communities really have higher rates of maternal mortality and infant mortality than even the entire state as a whole,” Smalley said.
The grant will fund their South Georgia Healthy Start program, which will provide extensive medical care and home services to 700 people in rural areas.
“A workforce of about 13 staff members will go out and provide clinical care, case management, community engagement policy change advocacy and research to help us look at what all is happening in these communities to help counteract these infant and maternal mortality rates that we’re seeing,” Warren said.
Clinical employees will work out of the East Georgia Healthcare Center locations within Appling, Bulloch, Candler, Emanuel, Jenkins, Tattnall and Toombs counties.
“Our goal here is to reduce the burden on these mothers and fathers and children in these communities, and at the same time, increase access to care that they may not otherwise have in these communities,” Smalley said.
The program will last 5 years, and both Warren and Smalley hope these communities can continue that medical care even after the money runs out.