a mother holding her newborn baby

First Year Cleveland announces new community-led Executive Committee

First Year Cleveland, a public-private partnership aimed at reducing infant  mortality and eliminating racial inequities in infant health outcomes, announced the appointment of  members to its reconstituted Executive Committee. Installing the new committee will catalyze FYC’s shift  in strategic direction to focus on combating racism as a root cause of maternal and infant mortality. Change in the initiative’s governance will be an essential guiding force for FYC’s evolution and a pivotal step to infuse considerations of equity and racial justice throughout its activities.  

Expanding from 17 to 20 members, the committee will lead FYC’s health care delivery and community-driven model of impact to include support for upstream and community-based initiatives that promote prenatal and infant health. The committee will maintain representation from public and private sectors—including city and county government, health care institutions, and philanthropy—while broadening its decision-making to include Black leaders of nonprofit organizations that promote community health, grassroots organizers, faith-based leaders, social service executives, and policy experts. 

The Executive Committee is responsible for the strategic direction and fiscal oversight. Committee members were selected based on their experiences and relationship to issues related to infant mortality and racial equity, including: 

  • Direct experience with pregnancy and infant loss; 
  • Unique ability to advance FYC’s goals and objectives; 
  • Willingness to collaborate and embrace the goals and approach of FYC in its next iteration; 
  • Reflection of the community FYC serves; and 
  • Willingness to actively participate in and contribute to the leadership of FYC. 

The majority of Executive Committee members are Black, in line with a charge from the founding FYC Executive Committee, to ensure that the communities most impacted by the underlying causes of poor birth outcomes—such as racism and toxic stress—drive the  initiative’s decision-making. 

The new Executive Committee co-chairs are: 

  • Blaine Griffin, Cleveland City Council member, Ward 6, City of Cleveland; and
  • India Pierce Lee, senior vice president, program, Cleveland Foundation.

New Executive Committee members are: 

  • John Corlett, president and executive director of The Center for Community Solutions;
  • Juan Molina Crespo, community advocate and consultant;
  • Kimberly Green, director of nursing at Women and Children and Rehabilitation Service in The MetroHealth System;
  • Iris Harvey, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio;
  • Toni Jones, senior director of Enterprise Life Services at CareSource;
  • Rev. Frederick Knuckles, pastor at New Fellowship Baptist Church and program manager of Healthy Fathers Initiatives at University Settlement;
  • Frances Mills, public health commissioner at the Cleveland Department of Public Health
  • Margaret Mitchell, president and CEO of YWCA Greater Cleveland; 
  • Jeffery Patterson, chief executive officer of Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority;
  • Sabrina Roberts, administrator of health policy and programs in the Cuyahoga County Department of Health and Human Services;
  • Amy Stephens, chair of Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cleveland Clinic Fairview Hospital; and
  • June Taylor, chief of human resources and training and PMQI at Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging.

The returning Executive Committee member are: 

  • Terry Allan, commissioner of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health;
  • Mitchell Balk, president of the The Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation;
  • Celina Cunanan, division chief of nurse midwifery and interim director at the Center for  Excellence, Diversity and Inclusion, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center;
  • Marcia Egbert, program director of Thriving Families and Social Justice at The George Gund Foundation;
  • Michael W. Konstan, vice dean for translational research and director of community health programs at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
  • Jazmin Long, chief executive officer of Birthing Beautiful Communities.

For more than five decades, Cuyahoga County has had one of the highest infant death rates in the country. Cleveland has also ranked among the worst cities for preterm births, the primary driver of infant mortality. These startling facts spurred the launch of FYC in 2015 with a mission to mobilize the community through a unified strategy to reduce infant deaths and close racial gaps by 2025. Since then, countywide infant mortality has dropped by nearly 28%. 

The founding FYC Executive Committee has unanimously agreed to expand efforts to decrease Black, non-Hispanic infant mortality by focusing on a health care delivery and community-driven model of  impact, including a targeted focus on Black expectant mothers and the prenatal period. The new Executive Committee will be responsible for effectuating this approach and devising new strategies to  advance health equity. 

Central to the Executive Committee’s charge is learning from and integrating the experiences of community members directly impacted by extreme preterm birth (babies born before 28 weeks of  pregnancy), infant death and bias in maternal care. Heightened engagement of neighborhood residents and elevating the voices of women and families who experience racism and infant loss will be key to FYC’s continued progress.