December 03, 2015


Staff and Wire Report 


The Los Angeles County Action Learning Collaborative brought together nearly 100 local health care workers in downtown Los Angeles last month for a conference to confront the staggering African American preterm birth rates in the county. The conference, “Reducing Disparities in Birth Outcomes and Infant Mor­tality: Strategies for Sustainable Intervention” was co-sponsored by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, March of Dimes and PAC/LAC (Perinatal Advisory Council Leadership Advocacy and Con­sultation). In Los Angeles County, the African American preterm birth rate is nearly 50 percent higher than in the white community, they said.


 Nearly 1 in 8 babies is born too soon. In addition, African American babies are three times as likely as white babies to die before their first birthday.


“Sometimes premature births just can’t be prevented but I think the high preterm birthrate among African Americans has a lot to do with not taking care (with prenatal nutrition and doctor visits) during that crucial first trimester,” said actress and healthy birth advocate Shanola Hampton.


As a mother and an aunt, Hampton said she became an advocate for healthy birth because of her niece.


“We call her our miracle baby,” she said of her now six year old niece who was born at thirty weeks.


“During that time, March of Dimes was so helpful and such a support to my sister.”


From then, Hampton said, she wanted to be involved in helping women do whatever they can to ensure their babies are born as healthy as possible.


Some attendees to the conference, however, said that African Americans face obstacles to healthy outcomes because of poverty and racism.


“The conference tackled the impact of racism in the African-American community with a focus on reducing and eliminating racial health disparities in infant mortality and birth outcomes,” said lead organizer Fernanda Crivici, MPH, March of Dimes Associate Director of Program Services and Team Lead on March of Dimes Latino initiatives and Health Inequities.


“This collaborative conference of community stakeholders addressed the real hard issues: institutionalized racism and overcoming childhood trauma.”


“These health inequities are unjust and unfair,” said Leslie Kowalewski, March of Dimes Associate State Director for California. “March of Dimes recognizes solving this complex, heart-wrenching and costly health crisis requires a huge collaborative effort. We are approaching it from all angles including research with the new “team science” approach at the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Stanford University, as well as research grants to other top universities. We are also advocating for the health of moms and babies and working at the grassroots level to educate health workers who are in direct contact with women of child-bearing age with the best prevention methods we have to-date. This month we will launch “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” in hard-hit San Bernardino County. This is a proven community-driven program to reduce preterm birth.

Category: Health