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Black infant health program helping mothers have healthier births

Posted at 8:43 PM, Feb 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-17 23:43:32-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — In San Diego County, African American infants are nearly three times more likely to die in their first year than other infants.

"Infant mortality is actually an important predictor of the overall health of a society," said Dr. Abi Olulade with SHARP.

For the past 30 years, the Black Infant Health Program (BIH) has helped black mothers have a healthier birth experience.

Toni Jocelyn is a mother of two. Her youngest son, Augustus, is ten months old.

"At 37 weeks, I went into labor with him, and he came out just as happy and healthy," Jocelyn said.

Jocelyn said it's largely thanks to BIH, where she was able to fellowship with other mothers and create a birth plan for Augustus.

"It talked about the things that were important. If this happens to me, I want this done. If I'm not near my baby, I want them to receive breast milk, not formula," Jocelyn said.

The program has helped hundreds of mothers like Jocelyn. But Iris Payne, the program's director, said health disparities among women of color are still prevalent.

"We are still seeing, within San Diego, African American babies being born at lower birth rates than women and babies of other ethnicities," Payne said.

The program is ten weeks of prenatal and postpartum groups.

Payne said they serve around 95 women every month, offering lessons on breastfeeding, infant and toddler CPR, access to a public health nurse, and more.

"It's individualized for what each woman's needs," Payne said.

Payne said the program has evolved over the years to include social support and empowerment activities.

She said many black mothers have expressed not feeling heard during their pregnancy or lack trust in their doctor.

"So if you don't feel that your medical provider has your best interest, then it also means women are not sharing everything that's going on with them," Payne said.

Payne said the county has also implemented implicit bias training among healthcare providers as another step toward helping ensure more black mothers have healthy babies.

"Pregnancy is a wonderful thing. We want it to be also a positive experience for every woman, for every baby," Payne said.

Black Infant Health is a state program. It's contracted to the Neighborhood House Association in San Diego County.

There are no income guidelines for participating in BIH. The program is free. For more info on how to apply, click here.