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Battle for Our Babies offers IT challenge to combat infant mortality

The winning technology developer will receive $10,000 to create a digital solution to connect community health workers, payers and providers.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

African Americans suffer twice the infant mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Rates vary by state, with Ohio and Indiana and many southern states having some of the highest numbers of infant deaths, according to the CDC.

African American babies in Ohio are three times as likely to die as compared to non-Hispanic white infants, according to Silas Buchanan, co-founder and president of, citing a report.

"In Cuyahoga County, in Cleveland, last year African Americans suffered six times the infant mortality rate than Caucasians," he said.

The CDC's list of risk factors for infant mortality include birth defects, premature births, sudden infant death syndrome, pregnancy complications and injuries, such as suffocation.

Buchanan questions whether stress plays a role and also cites the practice of moms sleeping with their babies.

"When you look at the fact that an African American female with a PhD, or an MD is more likely to lose her infant than an uneducated Caucasian woman who lives in the inner city, you might ask – is systemic racism possibly a driver of stress?" he said. "Many grandmothers slept with their babies and will tell moms 'I slept with you, you're fine.' Yet, we hear so many stories where a parent or loved one rolls over their child and they are killed. So we need to get the message delivered to grandmothers to deliver downstream to new moms so that we can change this behavior."

To get the word out beyond the doctors' offices,, HIMSS, which is the parent organization of Healthcare Finance, the HIMSS Innovation & Conference Center in Cleveland and The Cleveland Foundation's CTL+ALT+CLE Initiative have initiated Battle for Our Babies.

HIMSS is offering $10,000 in a challenge for a developer to come up with a technology-based tool, tracker, application or other device that can be used by community health workers to help improve birth outcomes.

Community health workers have often talked about the need for a way to connect them with payers and providers, Buchanan said.

"Not just from a referral standpoint, but how do you track whether or not the person went where they were referred to?" Buchanan said. "There's lots of resources out here and there's lots of organizations that will point people in directions, but very few actually track whether they went and what their experience was."

Developers in the Battle for Our Babies Tech Developers Challenge are encouraged to involve STEM students in their work. The deadline is October 31. There's no fee to apply.

"I think what the tech developer community may come up with will have global implications, because infant mortality rates aren't just poor in Northeast Ohio – they're poor in underserved communities, rural and urban, across the world," Buchanan said.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
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