About the Initiative
Baltimore babies die at a rate that is among the worst in America. In 2008 alone, 120 infants under the age of one died, many of those deaths preventable. The city also has an extremely high rate of babies born pre-term and underweight – key factors in infant mortality.
In response to this public health crisis, leaders from the corporate, nonprofit, and government sectors have come together to launch an innovative and far-reaching initiative to prevent infant deaths and promote better family health.
Known as B’more for Healthy Babies, the initiative is built on the realization that reducing infant deaths will happen only if people throughout the community play a part – whether it’s the leaders of the key city agencies, physicians, nurses and social workers; community groups and teachers; or fathers, grandmothers, caregivers and pregnant women themselves.
For the first time, Baltimore has created a strategic initiative that brings together the right agencies and people to improve an often-fragmented health care system and reach families that are hardest to serve. We believe that collaboration and cooperation among institutions is vital to our goal of reducing infant mortality and improving the health of Baltimore families.
B’more for Healthy Babies is a long-term initiative that has been carefully planned to work in four interrelated ways:
- Policy/Systems – The initiative’s steering committee brings together leaders from key city agencies and institutions, including the health department, social services, and the school system, as well as representatives of hospitals and community groups – to ensure that the best policies and referral systems are in place to reduce infant mortality.
- Services – We will equip physicians, nurses, social workers and other service providers to educate and guide pregnant women and their families to prevent poor birth outcomes. We will also educate providers about community-based services.
- Community – Nonprofit groups in three communities – Patterson Park North and East, Upton/Druid Heights and Greenmount East – will initially receive new funding and training to increase community involvement and collaboration at all levels of the service-delivery system. The goal is that communities know their role in improving access to and providing direct services as an essential way to improve birth outcomes.
- Family and Individuals – Community-based organizations will work to ensure that at-risk women and families use available services and practice behaviors that improve birth outcomes.
A sophisticated communications campaign delivered across the city will share messages about infant safety and family health – allowing us to expand the reach of our work beyond the three communities to all residents of Baltimore City.
The initiative will focus on three sets of messages.
- Healthy and Safe Parenting – Beginning in mid-2010, a citywide communications plan and related activities will focus on making sure babies sleep safely, a key step in reducing infant deaths. A media outreach campaign, education in the hospital, and community outreach will reinforce the messages.
- Healthy Pregnancy – Beginning in 2011, this phase will stress the importance of prenatal care, smoking cessation and other services to improve family health. Community-based groups will identify pregnant women and get them into prenatal care. Home visiting programs will be strengthened. New education and outreach activities will be launched.
- Healthy Baltimore – Beginning in 2012, this phase will focus on the importance of good health on a person’s ability to lead life to the fullest and have healthy babies.
Partners/Plans for the Future
This initiative was launched by the Baltimore City Health Department.
Key partners include CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and The Family League of Baltimore City, Inc. The Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs is developing communications materials for the initiative and will evaluate its effectiveness.
Agencies who are taking part include Baltimore HealthCare Access, Baltimore Mental Health Services, Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems, the Baltimore City Department of Social Services, and Baltimore City Public Schools, as well as several managed care organizations and the city’s eight birthing hospitals.
Our key community partners include Baltimore Medical System (Patterson Park North and East), University of Maryland Medical System Foundation (Upton/Druid Heights) and People’s Community Health Centers (Greenmount East), each of which is working closely with a range of community-based groups.
We will monitor our work carefully and make changes to better meet our goals. As the project continues, we will make targeted investments in effective strategies and will expand the reach of the project to communities throughout the city. This project is built on collaboration at the policy level and in the community. And we invite interested parties – foundations, nonprofit organizations, community leaders and others – to get involved.