Toward the goal of decreasing Black-White disparities in infant mortality, the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health states that compared to other racial and ethnic birthing mothers and groups, African American infant mortality in the county is disproportionately higher and black infants are more than twice as likely to die during their first year of life. Explanations for the persistent poor birth outcomes among African American women are complex, involving a number of biological, psychological, social, and economic factors that surround pregnancy and birth.
The California Department of Public Health Black Infant Health (BIH) program was created in 1989 to address the high infant mortality rates among African Americans. Due to state budget cuts, First 5 LA began in 2009 to help fund three BIH Programs in Los Angeles County health jurisdictions implementing the state BIH model. These include:
- LA County Department of Public Health (with five subcontractors)
- City of Pasadena
- City of Long Beach
BIH is funded by First 5 LA, Title V State Block Grant Funds and Title XIX Matching Funds. First 5 LA funds are used to leverage/draw down Title XIX funds.
BIH aims to improve health among African American mothers and babies to reduce the Black and White infant mortality disparities. African American women 18 years and over enroll while they are pregnant or up to 3 months postpartum and are empowered to make healthy choices for themselves, their families, and their communities.
The original BIH model was designed to be flexible enough to adapt to each community’s needs and strengths, with modules addressing prenatal care outreach and care coordination, comprehensive case management, social support and empowerment. In 2010, the program was revised to be more standardized and to allow for tracking child outcomes. The new model focuses on group intervention emphasizing empowerment and social support and complementary case management.
- First 5 LA contracted with Clarus Research, which conducted a Black Infant Health Report on the original BIH Program Model in 2011. The findings suggested the BIH Program made a positive impact by reducing disparities in pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding for African American women and their infants.
- First 5 LA is scheduled to end its BIH funding in June 2019, and shift its focus to African American birth disparities.
- First 5 LA has invested in capturing qualitative data in partnership with the Los Angeles Department of Public Health (DPH) on the engagement of services by African American mothers.
- First 5 LA and DPH successfully applied to the Pritzker Foundation to fund a Fellow to work on birth disparities work.