The statistics are alarming: 45% of children in California live in low-income households. Of that group of children, 57% are Black and 61% are Latino. Youth from low-income neighborhoods are 20% more likely to end up in prison and 61% of the incarcerated population are Black or Latino. Youth With a Purpose (YWAP) has made it its mission to weaken the school to prison pipeline and improve outcomes for low-income youth. And their plan starts at the very beginning: before birth.
(Los Angeles County, CA) “It takes a village to raise a child,” the African proverb states, and activation of that village begins before birth. In an effort to support healthy and joyous births for Black moms, families, and babies, the African American Infant and Maternal Mortality Prevention Initiative (AAIMM) has created a Tips to Activate Your Village Guide full of useful information and resources for each of the trimesters comprising the prenatal period and the first three months after the baby is born (the “fourth trimester”). The guide is now available for free to download from its website, blackinfantsandfamilies.org.
One of the cornerstone beliefs behind the AAIMM initiative is that healthy and joyous births do not happen alone. They require an entire community of support — that means not just family and friends, but also neighbors, healthcare workers, educators, and colleagues. Everyone who influences the environment in which children are born and raised can contribute to and support the next generation being healthy, safe and happy.
The Tips to Activate Your Village Guide was created to support expectant parents in their efforts to engage their own Village, and as a helpful resource for folks who may be a part of an existing Village. "We are excited to share this resource to support Black families — especially pregnant women and birthing people — and activating a village of support at every stage of pregnancy and childbirth,” said Dr. Melissa Franklin, LA County AAIMM Initiative. “The toolkit was informed by the collective wisdom of our AAIMM Prevention Initiative partners.”
While there are myriad apps and brochures dedicated to tracking the physical development of babies both before and after birth, not many specifically relate to the concept of activating one’s village and system of supportive persons and resources. Some of the tips in the guide include: create a birth plan, find a doula, join the Black Infant Health program, advocate for respectful care, and check in with your partner. The guide goes further than just offering tips, however. It also offers links to resources and programs — many, if not all of which, are absolutely free.
The AAIMM initiative just wrapped up a successful campaign for Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW) for which it created over 25 well-attended virtual events, launched a video series that received over 10,000 views on social media, and created a downloadable toolkit of creative pieces on its website’s hub for BMHW. In addition to making the Tips to Activate Your Village guide available on its website, the AAIMM Steering Committee encourages people to share the link to the guide on social media platforms using #WeAreTheVillage.
As the initiative continues its work, there are plans to roll out more collateral pieces as part of its continued effort to educate people about Black infant and maternal mortality as well as bring about more equitable birth outcomes. “We are currently building more resources and programs, all centered on supporting access to healthy and joyous births for Black families, in particular those resources and tips that are often not talked about," said Dr. Melissa Franklin, LA County AAIMM Initiative.
The Los Angeles County African American Infant and Maternal Mortality (AAIMM) Initiative is a coalition of the LA County Health Agency (Department of Mental Health, Department of Public Health, and Department of Health Services), First 5 LA, community organizations, mental and health care providers, funders, and community members. The purpose of the initiative is to address the unacceptably high rates of Black infant and maternal deaths in Los Angeles County and ensure healthy and joyous births for Black families in LA County. Through a series of comprehensive coordinated strategies, AAIMM works to reduce the gap in Black/White infant mortality rates by 30% by 2023. For more information, and to find out how you can support the initiative, please visit www.blackinfantsandfamilies.org.
to download the Trimester Guide.
San Fernando & Santa Clarita Valleys COVID-19 Panel: A Vaccine Conversation For African American Families
Held Wednesday, February 17th, 2021 from 10am-12pm
During this event we discussed concerns and explored options related to the COVID-19 vaccine with a panel of local medical and legal experts. It was an opportunity for our community to ask questions in a safe space. Panelists included:
• Valley Presbyterian Hospital
• General Counsel, Tamala Choma Esq.
• Director of Women’s Services, Marcia Lynch, RN, MSN
• Los Angeles County Department of Public Health – Tina Franco, MPH, Health Educator
• September Williams, MD, Physician-Writer & Bioethicist
• Kaiser Permanente – Sharon K. Okonkwo-Holmes, MD. Family Physician and Physician Lead for the Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Council
Panel discussion was moderated by Aqueelah Russell from Northeast Valley WIC
View the event recap below:
The LA County African American Infant and Maternal Mortality Prevention Initiative will be sponsoring the KJLH Women's Health Expo, to be held on Saturday May 8th. This years Expo will be held virtually, and it is the 3rd year in a row the AAIMM has sponsored the event.
AAIMM will be presenting a panel, "Activating the Village: Everything You Need to Know". Featuring our own Michelle Sanders of the LA County AAIMM Doula Program, and hosted by Tammi Mac.
The discussion will explore the benefits of using a doula, the difference between doulas and midwives, the different types of birth experiences women/birthing people can have, and how pregnant women/birthing people can access free services.
Find out about: getting the support of a doula, home visitation, mental health support, and having a joyous birth.
Click HERE to listen to the Black Infant Health Program panel presentation and enjoy the rest of the events focused on Black women’s health!
Each woman’s journey toward motherhood is unique and precious. In our work to end Black maternal and infant deaths in Los Angeles County, we sought to connect on an emotional level with the families that we are fighting to protect. We asked Black women to share their pregnancy and birthing journeys with us, as well as their hopes and dreams for their babies. We wanted to show the connection between maternal and infant health, which is a universal experience for all birthing persons and their babies.
Those responses were turned into journal entries which became a video series of intimate messages and images from mother to baby called, “Dear Baby, When I Love Me, I Love You.” Join us in the fight to end Black maternal and Infant deaths in Los Angeles County. Take the “We Are The Village” pledge and follow us on social media so that you can share these videos with your followers.
Watch the first Journal entry below!
Watch the second Journal entry:
Watch the third Journal entry:
Be the Village. Activate the Village.
The LA County Department of Public Health and First 5 LA, in partnership with the LA County African American Infant and Maternal Mortality Initiative is holding a virtual briefing to kick off Los Angeles County’s Black Maternal Health Week – which was officially recognized by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in March -- and elevate awareness about Black infant and maternal mortality and emerging local solutions. The goal of the week is to raise awareness about the issue, and the efforts of public health and community leaders across the County to oppose racism and discrimination at its root and support healthy and joyous births for Black families.
At the virtual event, attendees will hear from a panel of experts about the racism Black mothers face that leads to health disparities and work across the county being done to make a difference. Panelists include:
- Deborah Allen, Deputy Director, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
- Melissa Franklin, CEO of Growth Mindset Communications
- Raena Granberry, Perinatal Equity Initiative Coordinator, Dept. of Public Health
- Adjoa Jones, Founding Leader of African-American Infant and Maternal Mortality Community Action Team at L.A. County Department of Health Services Whole Person Care
- Michelle Sanders, AAIMM Doula Program Coordinator, Dept. of Public Health
- Brandi Sims, Health Systems Program Officer, First 5 LA
- Yolonda Roger Jones, Coordinator of Black Infant Health Program; Dept. of Public Health
- Dana Sherrod, Birth Equity & Racial Justice Manager for Cherished Futures for Black Moms and Babies, Public Health Alliance
We are still accepting donations for youth 0-5 years of age and gift cards fo children over 5.
Donations may be dropped off Tuesday or Thursday until April 15th.
For questions and donations please contact Dr. Erica Melbourne at (213) 905-8861.
Thank you to our sponsors: Casa Bella Foundation in collaboration with Sun Bum and Yumi
*socially distant walk-up distribution also available*
LA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS PROCLAIMS APRIL 11-17 AS BLACK MATERNAL HEALTH WEEK AND APRIL 16 AS THE DAY OF THE BLACK INFANT
Motion aims to bring attention to birth justice and the importance of reducing the Black maternal and infant mortality rates in Los Angeles
(Los Angeles County, CA) Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion recognizing April 11-17 as Black Maternal Health Week. The motion, brought forward by LA County District 2 Supervisor, Holly Mitchell, is a win for the county’s African American Infant and Maternal Mortality Prevention Initiative (AAIMM), its Steering Committee and Community Action Teams. Launched in late 2018, AAIMM is a coalition of the LA County Alliance for Health Integration (Departments of Mental Health, Public Health, and Health Services), First 5 LA, community organizations, mental and health care providers, funders, and community members.
The AAIMM Initiative mission is to end the unacceptably high rates of Black infant and maternal deaths in Los Angeles County and ensure access to healthy and joyous births for Black families. AAIMM approaches its work by recognizing racism as a root cause of birth inequities faced by the Black community. Black Maternal Health Week was introduced and led nationally by Black Mamas Matter Alliance four years ago and brought to Los Angeles by Black Women for Wellness.
The motion’s text reads:
“Black Maternal Health Week” (April 11-17, 2021) was established four years ago as a national, weeklong amplification of Black voices regarding the maternal health care crisis in the Black community. Locally, the week is celebrated by bringing attention to reproductive and birth justice and the importance of reducing the rate of Black maternal mortality in Los Angeles County(County). In the County, Black women die due to perinatal complications at four times the rate of White women and Black infants die before their first birthday at more than three times the rate of White infants. High mortality rates among Black women and Black infants span across income and education levels, as well as geography, and place a glaring spotlight on the intersection of historical and structural racism, gender oppression, and inequities in the social determinants of health that contribute to disproportionate stress on Black women/birthing people and result in unequal health outcomes that harm both them and their babies.
The Departments of Public Health and Health Services, alongside First 5 LA, launched the African American Infant and Maternal Mortality Prevention Initiative to address birth outcome inequities. The response to this crisis requires stakeholders of all kinds, with Black women in leadership roles, coming together to advance change, practice anti-racism, and ensure access to high quality, comprehensive, culturally relevant reproductive and maternal health care.”
By unanimous decision, the Board agreed to “Proclaim the week of April 11-17, 2021 as ’Black Maternal Health Week’ and within that week, April 16, 2021 ‘The Day of the Black Infant’ in Los Angeles County.”
The AAIMM Prevention Initiative and collaborative partners will be hosting a series of virtual events, celebrations, and social media efforts to create awareness about the unjustly high rates of Black infant and maternal deaths in the county, the roles everyone can play to combat discriminatory systems, as well as resources to support Black families so that they can have access to healthy and joyous births. Information will be shared through the initiative’s website (www.blackinfantsandfamilies.org) and social media channels (@blackinfantsandfamiliesla).
Click here to access the press release.
Racism in the United States is bad for your health. This is especially true for Black people, who for centuries have endured the harmful effects of racist systems.
College degrees and higher earnings are usually associated with lower incidences of preventable disease. But that’s often not true in communities of color, especially for those who are Black. They continue to experience the most disproportionately negative health outcomes across the board.
Five hospitals across Los Angeles County, along with guidance from Black women community leaders and the support of several health care partners, are working to change that.
Compared to their white counterparts, Black babies across the country are twice as likely to die in their first year – in Los Angeles, they are three times more likely. Black moms, women, and birthing people are three times more likely than white people to die from pregnancy-related causes. Most pregnancy-related deaths are preventable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Read the full article here!
Acknowledgment: In the wake of a centuries-long struggle to thrive and following an especially poignant 2020, many Black people want to be heard. Not through the raw emotion of their most appalling experiences but from their voices of wisdom. The fact that the Black community is still being defined by racial inequities and health disparities is a testament to the work that lies ahead. Yet there is a light that shows the way forward – the healing power Black women, mothers, and birthing people bring to their communities.
The phrase “Black women, mothers, and birthing people” is used throughout this 3-part series to recognize people who identify as non-binary, honor surrogates, and pay respect to those who have lost a child.