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Pregnant women in Philadelphia will be paid $1,000 a month as part of a trial program hoping to lower infant mortality rates in the city.
Starting next year, 250 expectant mothers will receive the no-strings-attached payments from their third month of pregnancy through their baby’s first birthday.
The pilot program, known as the Philly Joy Bank, will operate in the areas of the city with the highest rates of low birth weights — Cobbs Creek, Strawberry Mansion and Nicetown-Tioga.
Of the ten most populated cities in the US, Philadelphia has the highest rate of infant mortality.
The scheme also comes amid a baby bust across America that is seeing fewer women than ever having children, amid changing family values.
Some 250 women will receive the no-strings-attached payments from their third month of pregnancy every month until their child’s first birthday
Fertility in the US has plummeted in recent decades. The average American woman is now only having 1.6 children throughout her life, well below replacement level of 2.1
Announcing the scheme at a news conference on Monday, Dr Stacey Kallem, director of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s Division of Maternal, Child, and Family Health, said: ‘The no-strings-attached is key.
‘We are respecting the dignity and autonomy of program participants to use the funds as they see fit to improve their health and the health of their babies.’
The city’s infant mortality rate is 1.5 higher than the national average, and black babies are over four times more likely to die before their first birthday than white babies.
The scheme is inspired by similar offerings in other states. In Manitoba in Canada, pregnant women can get up to $81 a month.
Meanwhile, the Abundant Birth Project pilot in San Francisco provides $1,000 monthly to mothers-to-be for a year.
The Philadelphia pilot program needs to reach its funding target of $6 million in order to begin in 2024.
‘Research has shown that supporting pregnant people with cash payments can improve birth outcomes that are associated with infant mortality, including low birth weight and prematurity,’ said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole at the news conference on Monday.
Fertility rates in Pennsylvania are at their lowest in ten years
Infant mortality rates in Philadelphia are on the rise among Hispanics and Asians
Philadelphia had the highest child mortality rate in 2017 compared with other large cities and counties in the US
In 2021, one in 10 babies were born prematurely in Pennsylvania, and one in 12 were born with a low birthweight.
A premature birth is determined as a baby born before 37 weeks, while a low birth weight is one below five pounds.
It comes as fertility rates in Pennsylvania are at their lowest in ten years.
In the past 20 years, the decline was most pronounced in non-Hispanic Blacks, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islanders, but the birth rate among non-Hispanic white women was more stable.
The Philadelphia Department of Public Health said that disparities in birth outcomes by race and ethnicity are ‘large and alarming’.
More than 15 percent of babies born to non-Hispanic Black mothers were low birthweight — 40 percent higher than the city’s average.
Almost 15 percent of babies born to non-Hispanic Black women were premature, roughly 30 percent more than the citywide average.
Some 93 percent of Cobbs Creek’s population is made up of Black people, as is 94 percent of Strawberry Mansion’s.
As of 2021, 76 percent of Nicetown-Tioga was Black, 9 percent was Hispanic and three percent was Asian.
One of the most damning statistics for America is its poor record of infant and maternal mortality.
Often considered to be a measure of a nation’s overall development, America has a famously poor record when it comes to childbirth.
The US suffers 5.4 infant deaths per every 1,000 births each year – the most of any of the 13 countries in the study by a large margin.
It also experienced 23.8 maternal deaths per 100,000 births – a staggeringly high figure of ten more than any comparable countries.