HCN News & Notes

Health New England Grant Addresses Maternal Health Inequities in Indian Orchard

SPRINGFIELD — Health New England granted $20,000 to Indian Orchard Citizens Council (IOCC) in honor of Dora Robinson. This grant will enable the organization to determine how to meet the needs of birthing parents of color in the Indian Orchard neighborhood of Springfield.

IOCC used a previous Health New England grant to identify factors that negatively affect maternal and infant mortality in the neighborhood. These factors include less access to healthcare professionals, lack of mentoring to support birthing women of color, transportation and childcare challenges, lack of stable housing, and other social determinants of health.

The new funding supports IOCC as it plans action around possible solutions, including a mentoring program and tool kit; a local resource guide for maternal health, mental health, and other related needs; and a neighborhood-specific maternal-health and justice-advisory group.

IOCC is a volunteer neighborhood council of residents that come together to identify and meet the needs of the Indian Orchard neighborhood. They have been convening healthcare professionals and local organizations to plan what they hope will be a suite of services that will help residents have healthier pregnancies and healthier babies.

“Health New England is committed to helping all families attain their full health potential,” said Katie Bruno, Public Health and Wellness Program manager at Health New England. “By collaborating with communities like Indian Orchard to address inequities in maternal and infant health, we are helping to ensure all women have the opportunity to enter motherhood safely.”

“Health New England has demonstrated over and over its commitment to reducing maternal and infant mortality, especially in underresourced neighborhoods like Indian Orchard,” said Zaida Govan, executive director of IOCC. “We thank them for their dedication to helping local families thrive.”

A recent Massachusetts Department of Health report revealed that the infant mortality rate in Springfield is higher than the state average (4.4 infant deaths per 1,000 live births versus the statewide rate of 3.4 infant deaths per 1,000 live births). Black babies were most at risk, three times as likely as White babies to die in infancy in Hampden County. Overall, Black women are up to four times more likely than White women to die from pregnancy-related causes, according to Health New England’s Community Health Needs Assessment.

Robinson was a champion of the Indian Orchard neighborhood and served in many public service and leadership roles, including as president and CEO of the United Way of Pioneer Valley. She had been working on a maternal-health program with IOCC in the days before she fell ill and passed away in June 2023. Her daughter, Kimberly Williams, is working with IOCC to improve infant and maternal health in Indian Orchard.