BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Mayor Brandon Scott & Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Letita Dzirasa, celebrated a record-low infant mortality rate for black babies in the Upton and Druid Heights neighborhoods on Tuesday.
"It is no secret that there's a significant racial disparity in infant mortality with Black babies, but these are more than just statistics," said Mayor Brandon M. Scott. "Thanks to the incredible work of B'more for Healthy Babies and our community partners, Baltimore babies have a better chance of growing up and reaching their full potential."
Baltimore is challenged by racial disparities in infant mortality between black and white. Black babies typically die between 2 to 5 fives times the rate of white babies. The outcome is directly related to years of local investments, outreach and education through the work of the B'more for Healthy Babies program.
B'more for Healthy Babies launched in 2009. At that time, the Upton and Druid Heights neighborhoods had a higher infant mortality rate than the city overall with 15.0 deaths per 1,000 live births. That rate has dropped by 75 percent to 3.8 deaths per 1,000 live births in 10 years.
"Our celebration of the record low Black infant mortality rate in Upton/Druid Heights is a testament to the power of collaboration and sustained community investment," said Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Letitia Dzirasa. "I'd like to thank our staff, our partners, and the parents involved with our programs. B'more for Healthy Babies reminds us that public health interventions work, and can improve health outcomes for all of our communities."
The extensive work of B'more for Healthy Babies in the Upton/Druid Heights involves community organizing of partners and residents by health workers from the community. BHB performs extensive outreach to promote access to prenatal care and primary care services, providing education to local organizations, schools, businesses, and pregnant and parenting people. BHB also engages in group-based programming; leading Moms Clubs for both prenatal education and postpartum support, breastfeeding support groups; parenting classes case management of pregnant and parenting people; care coordination and linkage to services; and extensive use of BHB communication campaigns and materials. B'more for Healthy Babies also leads father engagement activities, spearheading a unique partnership with area barber shops including Cut Styles, and leading opportunities for educating parents about safe sleep.
"As an anchor institution, the University of Maryland, Baltimore cares about our neighbors and the conditions that influence health outcomes from education and economic development to the environment, and beyond," said Dr. Bruce Jerrell, President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore. "We are celebrating alongside our neighbors as the Upton/Druid Heights neighborhood now has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the country. I applaud the work of the BHB partnership and hope that others are equally inspired by the impressive change that happens when we work together as a community."
B'more for Healthy Babies is supported by funding from Carefirst Blue Cross, BlueShield, the Baltimore City Health Department, Family League of Baltimore City, the University of Maryland School of Social Work Promise Heights Initiative, Health Care Access Maryland and the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Here are some statements from their partners:
"CareFirst celebrates the Baltimore City Health Department, the Family League of Baltimore, and the hundreds of partners and parents who contributed to a dramatic improvement in birth outcomes," said Destiny-Simone Ramjohn, Vice President of Community Health and Social Impact, CareFirst. "As a not-for-profit healthcare insurer, leading employer and champion for health equity, CareFirst is proud to make significant investments in B'more for Healthy Babies, and data-driven public-private partnerships like it, that help resolve long-standing racial inequities in infant and maternal mortality. The impressive impact achieved by this initiative should serve as a model locally, regionally, and nationally for the power of collaboration and community engagement to achieve sustainable, transformative improvements in community health."
"As the local management board for the City, supporting equitable health outcomes for the children, youth, and families is a core value for Family League of Baltimore," said the organization's President and CEO Demaune Millard. "That all starts with providing supports and resources geared toward improving birthing outcomes for our most vulnerable and inequitably resourced communities. So far in Fiscal Year 2021, Family League has supported more than 30 families in Upton/Druid Heights neighborhood through the Healthy Family America (HFA) Home Visiting initiative and have worked with those home visitors to ensure continuity of care even in the midst of the pandemic. While we recognize there is still work to do, Family League looks forward to continued alignment with the BHB strategy and applauds Promise Heights for taking community-centered approaches to making advancements toward our goal of a serious and sustained decrease in infant fatalities in Baltimore City."
"HealthCare Access Maryland is honored to be a part of the B'more for Healthy Babies initiative,'' said CEO of Health Care Access Maryland Traci Kodeck. "We are dedicated to improving birth outcomes across Baltimore. We are so proud of the work that Upton/Druid Heights has accomplished and we look forward to replicating this model across other communities."
"On behalf of the staff and leadership team of B'more for Healthy Babies at Promise Heights, University of Maryland, Baltimore, we are delighted to share the news of the significant reduction of the infant mortality in the communities of Upton and Druid Heights to 3.8/1000 live births," said Stacey Stephens, Director of the B'more for Healthy Babies at Promise Heights. "The 75% decline in this rate over the past ten years reflects the commitment and work that we have done collaboratively to ensure that all babies born in these communities are healthy, of a good weight, and live beyond their first birthday. Thank you for partnering with us to create this incredible improvement in family and community health."
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