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Information session on improving infant and maternal health provided Sunday at Tyler Public Library

If you’re interested in learning how to help improve birth outcomes and maternal health in East Texas black communities, there is an opportunity to join an initiative that aims to do just that.

Mamatoto Village: East Texas will host a perinatal health worker information session from 2:25 to 4:15 p.m. Sunday at the Tyler Public Library, 201 S. College Ave.

Mamatoto Village East Texas was formed when founders of My African American Mothers’ Alliance— Erricka Bailey and Tasha Portley— were contacted by Washington, D.C.-based Mamatoto Village founder Aza Nedhari. After discussion, they decided to replicate Nedhari’s Mamatoto CMS program so the two women could better meet the needs of families in the community.  Mamatoto Village is a non-profit organization devoted to supporting women and fostering healthy communities and families.

The perinatal health worker (PHW) serves as a liaison between health/social services and the community to facilitate access to services and improve the quality and cultural competence of service delivery.

A PHW is an agent of change, not only deeply affecting the lives of the people whom they serve and teach, but also helping to bring about changes in hospitals and obstetrical practices, encouraging more culturally appropriate care that is relevant to the families being served.

The role of a PHW extends the reach of providers into underserved communities, reducing health disparities, enhancing provider communication, improving health outcomes, and instilling lasting health knowledge.

Mamatoto means “motherbaby” in Swahili, reflecting the concept that mother and baby are not two separate people, but an interrelated dyad.

Overall, infant mortality rates have decreased by 13 percent in the U.S., but there is a gap when it comes to black infants. According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health in April, the black infant mortality rate was 11.1 deaths for every 1,000 live births, compared with 5.1 deaths for every 1,000 white newborns.

East Texas has the highest number of babies that die within their first year of life in the state, and this 37-county health service area has not seen improvements in the infant mortality rate since 2005, according to local health officials.
Socioeconomic status, stress, and a lack of parity in health care access are among the factors attributed to this disparity. However, it can’t always be explained, as black women who are educated and/or affluent are also at risk.

Training for the PHW will be from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. every second Friday and Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every second Sunday, November through March 2018.

The event is free and open to the public. Attendees will have an opportunity to ask questions, gain more insight, apply for the position, and be interviewed more about the upcoming training and launch of Mamatoto Village in East Texas.
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