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Grant Supports Black Mothers and Children

Kent State has received a grant from the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation for the Spirit of Motherhood Program, an innovative program with a goal of reducing trauma and stress symptoms experienced by its pregnant Black mother participants. 

This multilevel, multigenerational intervention program recently received a $300,000 grant from the foundation to grow this multilevel, multigenerational intervention program throughout the Greater Akron area during the next three years. This is the second significant grant from the foundation that provided a $100,000 grant in 2021.

Angela Neal-Barnett, Ph.D., professor, Department of Psychological Sciences, is committed to giving Black mothers and their infants and children not only a better chance to survive, but also the skills and support they need to thrive. Neal-Barnett’s research has found that by addressing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in mothers, the program helps reduce the physical, emotional and mental strain on them and combats infant mortality by increasing the likelihood of healthier pregnancies and full-term births at a healthy weight. “Black babies are twice as likely or, in some places, three to four times more likely than white babies to die,” said Neal-Barnett. “That just shouldn’t be the case anywhere in this country.”

The hybrid format program combines written exposure therapy, parenting classes and music therapy to reduce PTSD symptoms and strengthen mother-child bonds. Once they complete the program, mothers also receive routine follow-ups to assess their progress. To date, participants who have completed the program have reduced their PTSD symptoms by 50-100 percent.

The program also offers a group musical intervention for preschool-aged children to help them learn how to cope with stress and regulate their emotions. While mothers are participating in the Spirit of Motherhood, their children complete the four-session musical intervention at the same time and the family practices coping skills together.

“Mental health is health,” said Neal-Barnett. “I think what this program has shown is how underdiagnosed and under assessed mental health difficulties are among Black perinatal women.”

Learn more about this program

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