Boston unveils campaign to reduce infant deaths

In an effort to drive down the number of deaths among black and Latino infants in Boston, the city today launched an initiative to lessen the stress on pregnant women by providing them with housing, counseling, and other critical support.

The pilot program will initially make 75 apartments available for little or no charge within the Boston Housing Authority, while the city’s public health commission will provide visiting nurses and counselors to help women juggle motherhood and the health needs of their families.

“For the past two decades, black women in Boston ... have been two to four times more likely to than white women to lose their babies in the first year of life,” Barbara Ferrer, the Boston Public Health Commission’s executive director, said during a news conference at Boston Health Care for the Homeless.

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Ferrer said that emerging science indicates that stress on pregnant mothers can adversely affect the health of their babies. And one of the key sources of stress, she said, is anxiety over housing.

The program will provide counseling and support for the first 18 months after a woman gives birth, while the housing placement will be permanent, she said.

The intiative, detailed by Mayor Thomas M. Menino, also includes a new task force of leading doctors, nurses, and other health care providers who will identify and promote ways to improve and protect infant health.