Project HOPE (Harnessing Opportunity for Positive, Equitable Early Childhood Development) is designed to generate real progress toward equitable outcomes for young children and their families.
Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Project HOPE is led by a consortium of three partner organizations including Nemours Children’s Health System (Nemours), Boston Medical Center’s Vital Village Network and the BUILD Initiative. Nemours is working directly with OPSR to create a long term plan to improve well-being and reduce inequities in children ages birth to five.
Specifically, Project HOPE aims to work with communities and states that have multi-sector coalitions, networks or initiatives that are committed to reducing inequity by addressing early childhood adversity through systems alignment, policy and capacity-building strategies. Throughout the course of this grant, OPSR will share its discoveries with the public as well as public and private partners to scale strategies that improve child well-being.
OPSR created an Early Learning Equity and Diversity (E-LEaD) team of state leaders to assist with the goals of this grant. This team helped OPSR select infant mortality as the grant's equity focus.
Most recently, OPSR implemented Hopeful Futures which uses Sensemaker®, an online research tool, with the help of the University of Kansas Center for Public Partnerships and Research to collect stories from families and providers. By working with multiple organizations across the state, OPSR is working to gather as much feedback as possible about experiences related to pregnancy, birth and the first year of a child's life. So far OPSR has collected stories from both Oklahoma and Okfuskee Counties. Plans are also being made to work with the Chickasaw Nation, which we hope to have updates on soon as this work continues through 2021!
In order to advance Project HOPE's vision that every child, regardless of race, ethnicity or family income, has the best opportunity to achieve optimal health and well-being, OPSR narrowed its focus to look at infant mortality, which stands out in our state for its high numbers and racial disparities.
Infant mortality was selected as this project's focus as it represents a measure of a communities' overall health as well as indicates large disparities within the state. Oklahoma has one of the highest infant mortality rates (IMRs) in the nation. And despite recent improvements, significant racial disparities persist. The IMR for American Indians (11.3 deaths per 1000 births in 2014-2016) is more than 1.5 times that of non-Hispanic, White (6.3), and the non-Hispanic Black IMR (13.4) is more than double. There has been a steep increase in the IMR in American Indian population, primarily in the post-neonatal period (infants who are at least 28 days but less than 365 days old).
Infant mortality can be compared across geographic, racial and income levels and can serve as a compass to monitor the impact of a collaborative approach to improving infant health. Historically, improvements in community conditions, such as access to care in remote geographical regions, have demonstrated a positive impact in reducing infant mortality rates.
As part of Project HOPE, OPSR is collecting stories from families and providers about pregnancy, birth, or the first year of a child’s life via the Hopeful Futures Story Bank.
Together, stories from across the state will help communities like yours make decisions and create actionable solutions that address infant mortality and increase equity.
Through Project HOPE, OPSR has had the opportunity to engage with and learn from other states and organizations that are focused in increasing equity.
During September 2019, OPSR attended a state convening for all Project HOPE's grant recipients in Philadelphia, PA. In addition to Oklahoma, teams from Washington, Florida and New Jersey were in attendance. This collaborative convening provided new strategies, resources and ideas and informed our plan to move forward their Project HOPE work.
Powerful presentations were given by Dwayne Wharton with The Food Trust as well as representatives from the Institute for Public Health Innovations (IPHI), Vital Village Network and Altarum. OPSR staff also presented about Oklahoma's progress and future plans.
To better understand the landscape of health inequities in our state, we drafted the Project HOPE Data Report the details racial disparities related to infant mortality.
The Project Hope Data Report describes OPSR's focus on infant mortality. A complex health issue, infant mortality has multiple medical, social and economic determinants including race, maternal age, education and health status. Oklahoma has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the nation, despite recent improvements.
In addition, significant racial disparities persist. For instance, the infant mortality rate for American Indians is more than 1.5 times that of non-Hispanic whites while the infant mortality rate for non-Hispanic blacks is more than double that of non-Hispanic whites.
For the full report, click here.
As our work continues through 2021, we hope to have additional reports and insights from the data we gather via Hopeful Futures. Stay tuned!
To achieve Project HOPE goals, OPSR utilized the following resources and reports by Altarum, IPHI and Nemours.
Because data can help mobilize support for strategies that are linked to improvements and reductions in disaparities, OPSR utlized this resource when selecting infant mortality as its key focus.
This resource helped OPSR look at determinants of health, positive and negative impacts and measures of success for this project's strategies all while maintaining an equity lens.
This Ripple Effect Report by Nemours highlights the events that may potentially shape early childhood partners, systems, policies, or practices but occur outside of the central activities of Project HOPE. For examples, OPSR's strengthened relationships with tribal organizations has been a ripple effect of this project.
These preliminary results track lessons learned throughout the planning and implementation stages of Project HOPE.