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CSU Awarded Nearly $1 Million for Interdisciplinary Infant and Maternal Mortality Reduction Program

Ohio Third Frontier to fund phase two of “Survive and Thrive” program led by CSU’s nursing, social work and urban affairs team

CSU Awarded Nearly $1 Million for Interdisciplinary Infant and Maternal Mortality Reduction ProgramCLEVELAND, OHIO (December 1, 2021) – Survive and Thrive, a CSU interdisciplinary research initiative created to help reduce infant and maternal mortality, has been awarded a $957,387 grant from the Ohio Third Frontier program through the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE).

Survive and Thrive partners CSU’s School of Nursing, School of Social Work in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs team members with Birthing Beautiful Communities – a local nonprofit founded in 2014 expressly to reduce Black infant and maternal deaths.

This funding allows the partnership to continue work into phase two with the ongoing development of a mobile app called “Thrive,” which captures clinical and social indicators for mothers, fathers and infants, and provides support resources to promote live births and a healthy first year for new babies.

Heather Rice, Ph.D., CPNP-PC, PMHS, assistant professor at CSU’s School of Nursing, is principal investigator for the Survive and Thrive team, which was previously funded by Third Frontier Research Incentives. Her work has been critical in the ongoing funding/stabilization of the team’s collective effort.

The project team includes Roland Anglin, Ph.D., dean and professor, and Richey Piiparinen, director, urban theory and analytics at the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs; Cyleste Collins, Ph.D., associate professor, School of Social Work, CSU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and Joan Thoman, Ph.D., RN associate professor and dean of research/collaborative partnerships at CSU School of Nursing.

“With my background as a pediatric nurse practitioner, I am passionate about how research can impact the work being done around infant and maternal mortality,” Dr. Rice said. “But Survive and Thrive is so much more than that. Being able to coalesce social and clinical data with our team and Birthing Beautiful Communities to uplift and support mothers and families is personal.”

Dr. Rice pointed to maternal health, preterm birth rates and infant mortality as being “unequivocally tied” to systemic racism which drives maternal stress in African American women. Being able “to help ‘turn the page’ and transform disparities into resilience and birth equity in Cleveland and across Ohio transcends research and statistics,” Dr. Rice said. “It’s a mission.”

Anchored by “resiliency modeling and predictive analytics,” the project team will add tools to the Thrive app to aid in chronic disease self-management and help reduce toxic stress in expectant and new mothers, which research suggests African American women experience to a disproportionate degree.

The app that Dr. Rice and team have been developing in concert with the Ohio tech company Big Kitty Labs, will also provide a range of resources, from workforce development training and job placement services, to emotional support opportunities for mothers and fathers.

The Thrive app scores and synthesizes risks by category, creating an intuitively based, individual “perinatal pathway” for parents to follow. App information includes everything from a breastfeeding tool, kick counter, developmental milestones tracker, vital signs tracker and support ticket that allows mothers to request assistance with transportation and support services. The new additions will focus more on stress reduction, mindfulness and breathing strategies.

Through ODHE, Ohio Third Frontier provides grants to Ohio institutions of higher education and other nonprofit research institutions that demonstrate commercially viable technologies with far-reaching social implications. Their $2.3 billion initiative “supports applied research and commercialization, entrepreneurial assistance, early-stage capital formation and expansion of a skilled talent pool that can support technology-based economic growth.”


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