Of the 10 most populous U.S. cities, Philadelphia has the highest rate of infant mortality in the first year of a child's life. For this reason, the territory's Department of Public Health intends to launch the "Philly Joy Bank" pilot program in early 2024.
The program would help alleviate racial disparities in infant mortality rates, so officials are raising funds.
The idea is to offer $1000.00 USD in cash as monthly payments to pregnant women living in certain communities.
The infant mortality rate in Philadelphia during 2017 was 6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births, higher even than that of the country (5.8). This is confirmed by data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Likewise, a 2021 study showed that in that city, non-Hispanic black women accounted for 58% of pregnancy-related deaths. This, during the years from 2013 to 2018.
In this regard, Cheryl Bettigole, Commissioner of Sanitation in Philadelphia expressed that there are areas of the city mired in poverty and systemic racism. Therefore, in "the poorest big city in the country" there is an urgent need to support parents and pregnant women to keep babies alive.
Bettigole further argued that infant mortality in Philadelphia is not an irreversible crisis; on the contrary, it is solvable.
Therefore, the trial program intends for new mothers to receive payments for 18 months, including one year after delivery.
So, which pregnant women are eligible for the program?
Pregnant applicants must have an annual household income of no more than $100,000.00 USD. However, this scheme will focus on women from the Cobbs Creek, Strawberry Mansion and Nicetown-Tioga neighborhoods. These neighborhoods have the common factor of the highest low birth weight rates in the city.
In addition to the financial support, the mothers will be provided with other assistance such as home visits and breastfeeding support, among others.
The funding available so far is enough to help 250 pregnant women. It is important for them to know that there are no rules that say what or how to use the money.