Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership
The Northern Manhattan Perinatal Partnership (NMPP) is a twenty-four year old organization and national Maternal Child Health leader. NMPP delivers critical health and social services to communities throughout the Borough of Manhattan located in New York City. Known as the “uptown area”, our service area ranges from 110th Street to the Northern tip of Manhattan NMPP began in 1990 as a project of the New York Urban League (NYUL) to mobilize resources to reduce infant mortality through support to pregnant and parenting mothers and fathers. In 1994, NMPP separated from NYUL and became a separate corporation with the help of a small group of concerned community residents. Six of these community residents remain on the NMPP Board of Directors today, a testament to their commitment and dedication. Presently, NMPP houses six grant-funded programs, including a Head Start/ UPK program for young children. With an annual budget of over 7 million dollars, NMPP has grown from a small project of the NYUL to a nationally recognized agency employing over 100 paid staff.
Harlem Remains a Tale of Two Cities
NMPP is located within the bustling hub of Central Harlem just miles from the prewar building where Ralph Ellison wrote a part of the iconic novel Invisible Man. The charismatic pull of the world famous hub of Black culture and Latino culture remains a powerful draw even though the demographics of Harlem have dramatically changed
over recent years. With gentrification has come rising rent and food costs that NMPP seeks to address by offering a broad range of free services to women, men and children free of charge. The staff of NMPP speaks English, Spanish, and French as well as Mandingo, Portugese, Swahili, Bambara, and Haitian Creole. While most of our programs serve families who reside in the Harlem and Washington Heights community, we offer more limited services to families living throughout Manhattan.
Black and Brown Babies Were Dying
The story of NMPP began more than two decades ago when a clarion call would mobilize a new federal government movement called the Healthy Start Initiative (HS) designed to save the lives of babies and pregnant women at the community level. Between 1991 and 1994, a little over twenty rural and urban sites with infant mortality rates 1.5-2.5 times the national average were funded to “identify and develop community-driven systems development approaches to reducing infant mortality and improving the health and well-being of women, infants, children, and families.” Over the next twenty years, the five-year demonstration project would expand into a loosely knit national federation of over 100 HS sites that would help create better social and health outcomes for hundreds and thousands of babies and women. Through the efforts of agencies like NMPP all across the country, the national IMR rate decreased from a rate of 7.6 deaths per 1,000 births in 1995 to a rate of 6.1 in 2010.
The Battle to Save a Historic Community
While many communities would achieve successful outcomes none of the HS sites distinguished themselves more in making a demonstrable impact on individual and collective impact than NMPP. NMPP helped to mobilize the grassroots movement that succeeded in partnering with Harlem Hospital to develop the hospital’s first Birthing Center. NMPP also helped to spearhead a citywide initiative to increase funding by the New York City Council to support women’s health. Between 1993 and 1996, the rate of babies born with low birth weight (LBW) Rates dropped 23.8 percent in Central Harlem, compared to 3.4 percent between 1990 and 1993. Overall, the IMR in Central Harlem declined from a high of 27.7 deaths per 1,000 live births in Central Harlem to less than 8.4 deaths in adult women.
Disparities in Health Outcomes
However, poor maternal child health outcomes in concentrated pockets within Harlem and other parts of the country still remain unacceptably high. 52 babies died because of unsafe sleep practices in 2015 and the majority of the children were African American. As a result of entrenched disparities between racial and economic groups, new threats have also emerged. In 2010, African American women were 10 times more likely than white women to die of pregnancy related complications. In 2016, that rate has increased to 12 times higher. While remaining vigilant around its fight against infant mortality, NMPP has also started to work to draw attention to the rising maternal mortality rate for women of all races. Twenty five years after the call, NMPP remains committed to helping families in Harlem and Upper Manhattan live healthier, happier and more resilient lives.
NMPP’s board members, staff and volunteers represent the ethnic diversity of Northern Manhattan. NMPP’s management team is primarily made of women of color who currently live in Northern Manhattan, the South Bronx and neighborhoods that are part of Central Brooklyn. NMPP historically has executed a policy where former clients are hired as staff and are members the Board of Directors. The agency has a keen respective for the cultural traditions of the neighborhoods we serve by hiring staff that represents the community and respecting and utilizing the traditions of the people we serve as a tool to improve the health of the community. NMPP has the acumen, human capital and management structure to develop successful programming and health promotion.