First Year Cleveland COVID-19

First Year Cleveland

Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Biomedical Research Building
11000 Cedar Avenue - 4th Floor Cleveland, OH 44106

Phone 216-368-4837
Home About Us Newsroom

“Toxic: A Black Woman's Story" to explore the harmful effects of racism on pregnant African-American

Posted September 19, 2019 in Press Releases

National Geographic Executive Debra Adams Simmons
to participate with the premiere of
“Toxic: A Black Woman’s Story,”
a film exploring the harmful effects of racism
on pregnant African-American women

Cleveland, OH – First Year Cleveland’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Initiative and the Healthy Neighborhoods Committee of the Healthy Cleveland Initiative are proud to announce the premiere of the film “Toxic: A Black Woman’s Story,” Wednesday, September 25, 2019, from 5:00 to 7:15 p.m. at the Cleveland Natural History Museum. The film will be followed by a discussion period facilitated by Debra Adams Simmons, Executive Editor for Culture at National Geographic.

“Toxic” was developed to examine the harmful effects of race-related stress on the health and well-being of African American women during pregnancy and to increase awareness of the negative outcomes associated with maternal stress. Local maternal and child health advocates were intentional in creating a film that would put a face on black parents who are navigating through infant loss. The “Toxic” film will ultimately be available to lawmakers, academic, health and social service providers to help them understand a day in the life of a pregnant black woman and how their respective entities or institutions could play a role in helping a greater percentage of African Americans achieve improved pregnancy and birth outcomes.

Black families currently experience every kind of pregnancy loss at a significantly higher rate than any other racial group. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black women are twice as likely as white women to suffer from infant loss. This includes fetal deaths early and late in pregnancy and stillbirth. For more than five decades Cuyahoga County has had one of the highest infant death rates in the country. In 2018, African American babies made up 38 percent of births in Cuyahoga County and 67 percent of infant deaths. Reducing these racial inequities is a primary focus of First Year Cleveland’s (FYC’s) work. FYC supports interventions that look at the role structural and institutional racism plays in infant deaths.

Immediately following the film premiere, Debra Adams Simmons will lead a panel discussion with the film director, producer, and members representing the PAIL and Healthy Cleveland committees. The panelists will discuss racism, stress and biases in relation to maternal and child health outcomes. The panelists will also explore how individuals and organizations could offer solutions to the infant mortality crisis.

Additional Information About Debra Adams Simmons

Debra Adams Simmons is the Executive Editor for Culture at National Geographic Magazine where she manages coverage of the lived experiences of people around the globe. Debra was a 2016 fellow of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. She spent the past year examining the future of local news and identifying scalable journalism innovations for foundations and philanthropic organizations. Prior to that, Debra spent seven years as the managing editor and editor of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland before joining its parent company, Advance Local, as a vice president. A 30-year news veteran, Debra has extensive reporting, editing and senior news management experience.

Additional Information about the“Toxic” Film Premiere Co-Hosts

Established in 2015, First Year Cleveland (FYC) is a multi-sector collaborative working with institutions and communities with a unified strategy to reduce infant mortality and racial disparities throughout Cuyahoga County. In 2018, FYC launched the Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Committee. The Committee’s primary objectives are:

  • To gain further understanding of African American families that have experienced pregnancy and infant loss. The committee has defined loss to include miscarriage, stillborn and infant death situations.
  • To utilize the feedback from African American families to refine and/or build systems, policies, programs and services to better support parents with their pregnancy, birth, and parenting plans.

The Healthy Cleveland Initiative is a partnership of individuals, nonprofits, and businesses seeking the common goal of a healthier Cleveland. Established in 2011, Healthy Cleveland now serves as the health promotion arm of the Cleveland Department of Public Health. The Cleveland Office of Minority Health was established in 2007 and is dedicated to eliminating health disparities and promoting equity to improve the health status and quality of life for communities of color in Cleveland. Both housed in the local health department, these offices work separately, but collaboratively.

To learn more about First Year Cleveland, visit

To learn more about the PAIL Initiative, visit

To learn more about Healthy Cleveland, visit

Share This


Photo Gallery

1 of 22