Black Infant Health (BIH) is Brighter Beginnings’ longest running and one of its most successful programs. In fact, the history of Brighter Beginnings starts with the Black Infant Health program. In the mid-1970′s, the Coalition to Fight Infant Mortality publicized new findings about outrageously high infant mortality rates in sections of Oakland that were predominantly poor, predominantly communities of color. One of the results of this research was the development of the Oakland Perinatal Health Project (OPHP), which was conducted at community clinics like East Oakland Family Health Center and La Clinica de la Raza, in the years 1979-1982. Through OPHP, the State funded expanded prenatal care, to go beyond physician services to provide health education, nutrition counseling and psychosocial counseling. The evaluations conducted through OPHP demonstrated that low-income pregnant women who have access to services, are given information and support about how to eat better and manage stress have bigger, healthier babies. As a result, infant mortality is reduced and costs associated with hospitalization of tiny newborns are reduced.
Brighter Beginnings, first known as The East Bay Perinatal Council, was founded in 1984 by Ed Church who had been involved in the Alameda Perinatal Providers Network and strongly believed that the greatest gains in preventing infant mortality were to be accomplished in the community as opposed to the hospital.
Today Brighter Beginnings’ Black Infant Health (BIH) program serves as a model for all similar services funded by the State of California and our program has received numerous awards. BIH is a group empowerment model, designed to encourage and support African American mothers to have a healthy pregnancy. The program honors the unique history and traditions of people of African descent and provides information that is important to African American woman.
BIH offers African American mothers 20 group meetings – 10 are offered during pregnancy, and 10 sessions are offered after the birth of the baby. Each session offers material to read at home as well as fun and interesting group activities that explore issues related to pregnancy, birth and child development. The themes offered through the program are designed to empower the moms to make healthy decisions for themselves and their baby. Brighter Beginnings believes that “it takes a village to raise a child”, and strives to be a part of that “village”.
Brighter Beginnings’ Family Advocates are skilled at bringing high-risk women into the program, coordinating client services, and linking clients to other community agencies for additional assistance. Because of the relationship that grows between clients and Family Advocates, BIH participants view the healthcare system more positively. They understand the importance of their children’s health and are more motivated to seek care and health education. The result is healthier babies and children. The program aims to:
- Reduce infant mortality and morbidity rates
- Assist families in receiving perinatal and postpartum care and pediatric services for their children, as well as access to mental health, housing, and employment services
- Provide information about healthy lifestyles, relationships, and parenting to clients and their partners
The BIH program is offered through our Richmond Family Strengthening Center to pregnant, African-American women aged 18 or older residing in Contra Costa County. Last year 95 parents and 58 children were supported.
Recent BIH clients that were able to attend group sessions gave the following feedback about their experience in the program:
“I enjoyed reflecting back on the best times during my childhood, and I want to start developing positive memories for my baby.”
“I’m glad and grateful that I could take advantage of BIH.”
“I loved the belly mold activity! I will always remember how I felt while pregnant.”
“I learn something new every time.”
“I learned about health and nutrition and how to apply it to my life.”
“This is informative, and it’s nice to know that women are going through the same things.”
Read a BIH client story here.
Cathy Akina is the BIH Senior Family Health Advocate Read about her here.
Anita Siegel is a long-standing Brighter Beginnings Board Member and a champion for the BIH program. Read about her here.
“My Family Advocate really helped keep me grounded, and she taught me about new ways to care for my children. She encouraged me all the time to keep going to school, supported the decisions I made and helped me become a better, more active and informed mother.” more…
“Being able to play with my children in a positive and supportive environment — among a community of fathers – has given me such a better perspective on how I can be a good father to my sons.” more fatherhood stories…
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