January 24, 2018

The Best Babies Zone initiative (BBZ) at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health recently released a guide that walks organizations through its six-step phase of starting a place-based and community-driven initiative to reduce racial inequities in infant mortality.

Healthy Neighborhoods Kick-off event

At the Healthy Neighborhoods Kick-off event in Castlemont, Oakland, in 2013, Best Babies Zone asked community members what a healthy community looks like to them, and they wrote their responses on cards.

The guide, called BBZ Basics: A Step by Step Guide, moves through the foundational phases of a BBZ, which include: how to select a zone, how to collaborate with residents and build resident leadership, and how to plan for evaluation. The guide—which supports the initiative’s core vision that every baby is born healthy, into communities that enable them to thrive and reach their full potential—was written for both public health and non-public health organizations looking to implement the BBZ strategy.

“BBZ Basics is the culmination of six years of lessons learned through supporting BBZ sites around the country,” said Dr. Cheri Pies, BBZ principal investigator.

A $2.75M grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in 2012 helped launch three BBZ pilot zones to address inequities in birth outcomes in Cincinnati, New Orleans, and Oakland. An additional three-year, $1.4M grant expanded the initiative to include zones in Indianapolis, Kalamazoo, Mich., Portland, Ore., Cleveland, Milwaukee, and New York City between 2016 and 2017.

“Now, more community-based initiatives seeking to transform neighborhoods to reduce inequities in birth outcomes will be able to learn about the BBZ approach and adapt it to their work, strengthening the movement for equity in birth outcomes in the United States,” Pies said.

Infant mortality rates have declined nationally, yet African American babies are still twice as likely to die in their first year of life compared to white babies. There is growing recognition that factors such as economic stability, educational opportunity, chronic exposure to stress, and racism play a critical role in these disparities. The BBZ approach takes all these factors into account in order to address the root causes and structural factors contributing to these inequities.

Download the guide