A program designed to reduce infant mortality recently expanded to the Northland area.

Moms2B, which was founded in 2010, is holding meetings every Tuesday at Epworth United Methodist Church, 5100 Karl Road.

The new location is the final piece in an expansion for Moms2B that began in February to coincide with neighborhoods identified by Celebrate One as having high infant mortality rates, according to Jamie Sager, site manager for the program.

Moms2B was launched by Dr. Patricia Gabbe, a pediatrician, clinical researcher and professor, along with Twinkle French Schottke, an infant medical health specialist who now serves as program director.

"I wanted to do something for African-American women who were pregnant and living in poverty," Gabbe said during a Nov. 14 open house at the church to introduce Moms2B to the Northland community. "I knew they needed someplace that could reduce stress."

Moms2B had been operating at five locations, but the decision was made to add another three during 2017 "to fill in the blanks," Sager said.

Those blanks were areas identified by Celebrate One, which was formed in June 2014 after a six-month assessment undertaken by the Columbus Infant Mortality Task Force.

Three families lose a baby every week in Franklin County, according to the Celebrate One website.

"Our only eligibility requirement is pregnancy," Sager said.

"What began originally as a research-driven, 10-week nutrition course at one location has since expanded into a communitywide comprehensive prenatal and first-year-of-life program," according to the organization's website.

The goal of Moms2B is for all participants to deliver healthy, full-term infants who live to celebrate their first birthdays. According to the website, Moms2B encourages all pregnant women to participate and invites them to remain in the program until a year after they give birth.

Dr. Gabbe said the women love to return and show their babies to other program participants.

The two-hour weekly sessions at the various sites open with expectant mothers signing in and getting healthy snacks, Sager said.

That's followed by the "Sister Circle," in which the moms-to-be and Moms2B personnel sit down and talk about issues ranging from the silly to the serious, Sager said.

Large group lessons on things like safe sleep for an infant, postpartum changes and father involvement also are covered.

"We do a lot of health education," Sager said. "That's our main motivation."

"In general, women come in wanting to have a healthy pregnancy, wanting to be with other women in similar circumstances," Gabbe said.

The meetings conclude with lunch or dinner.

The Epworth United Methodist Church sessions are scheduled on Tuesdays from 1 to 3 p.m.

"We are really excited about it," the Rev. Jennifer Casto said of the congregation's decision to become a Moms2B site.

Casto said she was approached by Sager and Schottke.

"I really felt that God sent them here and it gave us an opportunity to connect with young mothers in the community," Casto said. "It was an obvious thing that we want to do whatever we can to help babies be happy and to provide whatever kind of support that we can to help expectant mothers to take care of their babies.

"This is what the church is called to be."

"I feel very grateful and thankful we have been able to provide what turned out to be a very needed service," Gabbe said. "Really, the moms are what make it so special. They thrive in this environment, and their babies thrive."

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1