Prioritizing Student Success
Ensuring Access

Spirit of Motherhood Program Grant

A new $100,000 grant from the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation will support innovative work being undertaken at Kent State to address preterm births and infant mortality among Black mothers in Northeast Ohio.

Infant mortality rates in Northeast Ohio are three to five times higher for Black babies than white babies, an alarming statistic that is an issue across the country but particularly prevalent in this part of the state. Experts at Kent State have found through their research that untreated post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic stress among Black mothers play a critical role in high mortality rates among Black children.
Angela Neal-Barnett, Ph.D., professor in Kent State’s Department of Psychological Sciences within the College of Arts and Sciences, developed and launched the Spirit of Motherhood Program in 2021. By screening and treating PTSD and chronic stress among Black expectant mothers, the program aims to reduce symptoms that impact the health of mothers and babies.
“Too often, post-traumatic stress disorder among Black pregnant women goes undiagnosed and untreated,” Neal-Barnett said. “Chronic stress and trauma experienced by pregnant mothers play critical roles in infant mortality. If we can reduce those things, we can reduce the rates of preterm births and infant mortality.” 
This grant will allow the program to recruit more interventionists, enabling them to expand the program to include up to 20 additional mothers and 40 of their preschool-age children. 
The Spirit of Motherhood program is a multilevel, multigenerational intervention program with the goal of reducing trauma and stress symptoms experienced by pregnant Black mothers participating in the program. This will, in turn, reduce the weathering on the mother’s body, leading to a reduction in preterm birth and infant mortality rates.
Designed with input from pregnant and postpartum mothers, doulas, community workers and infant mortality research interventionists, the Spirit of Motherhood program will integrate cognitive-behavioral interventions, tools and techniques as well as music intervention. It is founded on community-based participatory research and with community partners that remain committed to the project, including the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, Akron Community Foundation, Birthing Beautiful Communities, First Year Cleveland, Friendly Inn Settlement of Cleveland, Full Term First Birthday Greater Akron and the American Psychological Association. The generous support from the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation will allow this project to continue its mission to save the lives of Black infants.