Image: Camilo Jimenez
Just Tech Covid-19 Rapid-Response Grant – Summer 2020


It is well known that Covid-19 has had a disproportionate impact on Black Americans who were already overrepresented in health disparities. We do not yet understand its impact on infant mortality. A critical issue in Cleveland, Ohio, babies born to Black mothers are three times as likely to die within their first year than those born to White mothers. Addressing this, Birthing Beautiful Communities, an innovative, Black-owned and run perinatal support agency, supports Black women and their families through their pregnancies, births, and their babies’ first year. This study explores pandemic-required service shifts. Research questions include: (1) What are the outcomes of births during Covid-19? (2) What is the meaning of services for clients and staff in the context of social distancing? (3) What are the implications of technology in infant mortality prevention programming? We expect the findings to have implications for healthcare service delivery for Black women and their families.

Principal Investigators

Cyleste Collins

Assistant Professor, Cleveland State University

A mixed-methods researcher with a background in psychology, anthropology, and social work, Dr. Collins’s work is interdisciplinary and community based, and examines social problems and interventions focused on social determinants of health. Her research utilizes quantitative and qualitative research approaches and integrates findings to help build knowledge about effective interventions in addressing health disparities. A collaborative, community-engaged researcher, she has led or co-led on more than 17 community-based research projects. Previous projects have examined experiences with housing instability, homelessness, and foreclosure, impacts of paid sick leave, addressing health disparities among low-income African American adolescents, community gardening initiatives in African American communities, refugees’ health and mental health needs, and increasing research capacity in community organizations. Her most recent work examines interventions focused on reducing African American infant mortality rates. She partners with a local perinatal support organization, Birthing Beautiful Communities, to examine the impacts of perinatal support services, work currently supported by the State of Ohio. Her most recent work is examining the impacts of Covid-19 restrictions on delivery of perinatal support services. She currently serves as the evaluator for the Case Center for Reducing Health Disparities’ NIH U54 multiyear initiative, Involving Communities in Delivering and Disseminating Health Disparity Interventions.

Heather Rice

Assistant Professor, Cleveland State University

Heather M. Rice (PhD, APRN-CNP, PMHS) received her doctor of philosophy from Case Western Reserve University in 2017. She is a board-certified pediatric nurse practitioner that works in child and adolescent psychiatry as well as a professor and researcher at Cleveland State University School of Nursing. Dr. Rice is an active member of several academic, community, and professional organizations that advocate for child and maternal health, mental illness and trauma prevention. Dr. Rice is passionate about health equity and advocates for the needs of children and families. Dr. Rice’s research focuses on neighborhood conditions, maternal health, toxic stress, and infant mortality in African American women. She is currently co-principal investigator working with the community organization Birthing Beautiful Communities (BBC). The project, Survive and Thrive: A New Future for African American Babies, is developing an explanatory algorithm to identify the macroeconomic and microeconomic causal links that lead to infant mortality. The core intervention will lead to the development of a mobile app that combines social and clinical interventions for the mother, father, and navigator (perinatal support professionals [PSPs]). Through this research initiative, PSPs will receive additional training as community health workers and work directly with families utilizing the mobile app.