September is National Infant Mortality Awareness Month that brings awareness to the number of babies that die before their first birthday. This month, we are spotlighting Jose Ortiz on the important work being done by the Fetal Infant Mortality Review Project in Chicago.
Can you share with us the purpose of the FIMR (Fetal Infant Mortality Review Project) and how it originated?
The Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Project originated in the late 80’s as a small pilot in urban communities and was closely linked with federally funded Healthy Start programs in communities with high infant mortality rates. The aim of FIMR is to improve systems of care for families to reduce deaths. The pilot proved to be successful and in the 90’s FIMR expanded; today there are over 270 FIMR projects throughout the U.S. and other countries. What makes FIMR different from other programs is the maternal interview component. FIMR allows families in their own words to share their stories leading up, during, and after the loss of their pregnancy or infant. These stories allow us to learn about difficulties accessing services, gaps in services, and supports that are needed in our communities.
How is FIMR structured here in Chicago?
FIMR in Chicago has recently gone through a restructuring and is now a two-tiered approach. The first tier consists of de-identified family interviews being reviewed by a small interdisciplinary group composed of medical service providers, medical networks, community organizations, faith-based organizations, and social services. This group meets every other month to review these cases together and construct recommendations on how to address the issues present or possibly contributing to these negative outcomes. The second tier of this project sees our community action team taking on these recommendations and turning them into meaningful action. Our community action team is a larger interdisciplinary group aimed at using our collective knowledge and resources to address gaps in service to create programs/interventions addressing the issues contributing to poor outcomes.
Can you tell us what your role is with FIMR and what interested you in wanting to be a part of this project?
I originally came on board to the FIMR project as The Community Action Manager and am now the FIMR Administrator. I have worked in maternal and child health for over a decade, specifically in home visiting programs aimed at addressing infant mortality and poor birth outcomes in the city of Chicago. Throughout the years I had heard about the FIMR project and the great work they do in helping families and communities. When I learned about the new community action manager role being developed, I knew that this was something I wanted to be a part of. I’ve always felt the role that individual stories play in addressing issues families are experiencing are sometimes overlooked and this project aims to address that. My current role in the project has allowed me to further develop the Chicago FIMR to look more like the national model for FIMR, while keeping the support offered to the families as the cornerstone to what we do.
What are the goals of the FIMR program?
FIMR as guided by the National Center for Fatality Review and Prevention was developed to identify the non-medical factors that may contribute to adverse perinatal outcomes. It aims to address these factors by creating community-based and aimed solutions. The goal is to improve overall perinatal outcomes and lower infant mortality by addressing gaps in service, while hopefully helping the families directly impacted by loss by connecting them to needed supports and services. We also hope to help the national dialogue surrounding infant mortality with the data being collected.
Are there any specific ways that folks can support the FIMR program?
There are two ways you can help FIMR in its mission: First is by spreading the word about this project so we can reach as many people as possible. This can be done by sharing our program information with anyone who has recently experienced a fetal or infant loss. We would also like to connect with organizations or providers who work with families who have had a loss to establish partnerships to facilitate referrals to our program. The more families that are aware of us the bigger the impact this project can have. While we know that talking about loss is not something every family would like to participate in, we feel that every eligible family should know that we are here to support them. The main requirement for participating in this project is having had a fetal loss (at 20 weeks plus gestation) or infant loss and being residents of the City of Chicago.
The second way is by attending or spreading the word about our community action team meetings. These meetings are held once a quarter and are open to anyone who would like to join. The more individuals from different organizations and communities we can have at our table the better. This diversity allows us to have meaningful discussions on how we can turn the recommendations that come from our case reviews into real community action by individuals who live in these communities. The more perspectives we have the better we will be at making real meaningful changes to the services available.
What is the best way for people who are interested in FIMR to contact you?
Program Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Program Phone number: 773-834-5659