Ratner’s $50K Health Backing

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Forest City Ratner Companies recently donated $50,000 as seed money to mobilize community efforts and develop a plan to address the increasing number of baby deaths in the neighborhood of Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

"The money is a foundation," said Ngozi Moses, Executive Director of Brooklyn Perinatal. "A host of issues are involved with this health care dilemma. The stress of poor housing conditions, unemployment and poverty are root causes. Vital organizations such as ours cannot survive on government and foundation grants alone.

We cannot begin to solve the mortality crisis in Fort Greene until all of our key stakeholders come to the table. Businesses like Forest City Ratner are important. Their investment in the social needs of our community will set an example for other companies to emulate."

Despite significant declines in the city's infant mortality rates (IMR), Fort Greene has seen a surge in newborn deaths, topping the city's list with the highest IMR for the past two years. In 2003, the IMR in Fort Greene, Brooklyn was 74% higher than the city and almost two times higher than the national average. IMR in Fort Greene were also two times higher than the Borough of Brooklyn and the city overall, and five times higher than the neighboring communities of Greenpoint and Williamsburg.

One important reason for the rise in IMR in this Brooklyn neighborhood, say health experts, is because Fort Greene, unlike neighboring Bedford-Stuyvesant, does not qualify for federally-funded initiatives like Healthy Start. Because brownstones and co-ops abut existing NYCHA housing, the base income of the neighborhood is skewed, making the district ineligible for many of the public resources usually available to such needy communities.

Without the money, groups like Brooklyn Perinatal have not been able to sustain a consistent application of their efforts. "Infant mortality rates are an important measure of our community's health," said Bruce Ratner, President and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies. "Without adequate support and funding, infant mortality will continue to rise in Fort Greene.

Some keys to reducing infant mortality rates are quality prenatal care and access to postpartum care beyond the government-funded period. The investment that we are making in Brooklyn Perinatal will help produce recommendations to develop programs and strategies to reverse this unfortunate trend."

Brooklyn Perinatal will also work in partnership with Fort Greene Strategic Neighborhood Partnership and Brooklyn Plaza Medical Center to reduce the IMR of the neighborhood through partnership efforts at the community-based level. Ultimately, the goal is to service annually more than 200 clients and to improve community awareness of infant mortality, prenatal and postpartum care, and health care needs for infants and mothers.

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