Black Infant Health Program has helped thousands through the years
Black babies are dying at double, in some cases, triple the rate than any other ethnic group in this country. In addition, African American women face four times the risk of maternal death when compared with whites.
Everywhere you look and across the board, African Americans represent a significantly negative and disproportionate rate of death in every major or chronic illness facing other ethnic group
And, at a time when America's most vulnerable population needs help most, a program that consistently has provided help to mothers and children is facing the chopping block.
Started in 1989 to address the alarming rate of infant deaths in African American families, the Black Infant Health (BIH) Program has aided thousands of women and children over the years.
Facing 19 deaths for every 1,000 babies born in 1989, in 2010 African Americans still suffer significantly disproportionate deaths with nearly 14 out of 1,000 babies dying before their first birthday, versus six deaths per 1,000 births for Latino babies; five per 1,000 for white babies; and, three per 1,000 for Asian babies.
The Black Infant Health Program was intended to close that gap by providing services to pregnant or parenting African American women, 18 years of age or older.
Funded through the State Department of Health Services since 1989, the Black Infant Health (BIH) Program was cut from the State budget last year. Specifically, the more than $656 million cut from the State budget in 2009 slashed $80 million from child welfare programs including BIH; $61 million from Medi-Cal; $52 million from AIDS prevention and treatment; and $50 million from Healthy Families, which provides low cost health insurance for disadvantaged children.
With Los Angeles County among the first health jurisdictions to receive funding from the State to implement a culturally specific perinatal program, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health/Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Programs has five BIH contractors--Great Beginnings for Black Babies, the Children's Collective, Mission City Community Network, Prototypes, and Partners in Care Foundation.
They all provide community health outreach, referrals, and social support and empowerment classes, while encouraging healthy lifestyles devoid of drugs, tobacco or alcohol in order to impact infant mortality and morbidity rates. They have a stellar track record of doing just that. And, they all are facing the chopping block.
A total of $1.3 million in funding cuts to the BIH Program last year was salvaged through an effort led by 2nd District County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to have First 5 L.A. fill the funding gap. A child advocacy organization with a mission of increasing the number of children from the prenatal stage through age five, who are physically and emotionally healthy, safe and ready to learn, First 5 L.A. itself is funded by tobacco tax revenues.
With no other funding available, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and 3rd District Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky issued a motion during the Board of Supervisors April 27, 2010 meeting to encourage First 5 L.A.'s continued investment in the Black Infant Health Program. Along with Ridley-Thomas and Yaroslavsky, two other Supervisors, Don Knabe (4th Dist.) and Michael Antonovich (5th Dist.) voted favorably. Abstaining from the vote was First District Supervisor Gloria Molina, who chairs the Board of Supervisors and also chairs the First 5 L.A. Commission.
The First 5 L.A. Commission will vote on BIH funding during its 1:30 p.m., Thursday, May 13th monthly meeting in the First 5 L.A. offices, 750 N. Alameda inside the Union Station campus.
Support is needed for continuation of the Black Infant Health Program.
Contact your County Supervisor, attend the May 13th meeting, or contact your First 5 L.A. Commissioner at 213.482.5902. For additional information you also may call Great Beginnings for Black Babies at 323.789.7955.