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First 5 San Diego Addresses Urgent Need in Black Infant Health

The infant mortality rate in California is one to the lowest in the nation.  However, the mortality rate for African-American babies is dramatically higher in California and San Diego County.  Additionally, African American women locally have the highest percentage of low birth-weight babies.

The national goal is to reduce the African-American infant mortality rate to 4.5 per thousand and low birth weight to 5%.  Based on a three-year average (2005-2007), San Diego County’s rate for infant mortality among African Americans is 10.0 per thousand  and the low birth rate is 16.1%.

The Black Infant Health program provides services to pregnant and parenting African-American women and infants to ensure that African-American babies are born healthy and have the opportunity to grow into healthy children.  The County of San Diego administers the program through Family Health Centers of San Diego, which provides direct Black Infant Health services to “at risk” African-American women and infants. The services provided include: group prenatal and post-partum classes; help with enrolling in health insurance and finding prenatal and well child care; referrals for emergency food, clothing, housing and medical services; advocacy for clients and social support.

“San Diego County has made progress in reversing African-American mortality and low birth rates through the Black Infant Health program,” said Wilma J Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., Deputy Health Officer for the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency.  “This program meets a critical need within our community, but due to the state’s economic crisis, the state eliminated all State General Funds for the BIH program in FY 09-10, which also resulted in a loss of Federal matching funds. This elimination of funding had a significant impact on BIH services to “at risk” pregnant African-American women and their infants. First 5 San Diego approved a one-year funding from its Emerging Critical Needs program allocation.”

With no end to the state’s budget woes in sight, First 5 San Diego commissioners voted in August 2010 to extend funding of the Black Infant Health program for two additional years.

“The Black Infant Health program meets the criteria of the Commission’s Emerging Critical Needs policy which funds projects that address the most critical gaps in the safety net for young children and families,” said Barbara Jiménez, executive director, First 5 San Diego.   “This funding supports the Commission’s strategic plan to respond to critical needs emerging from state and local economic conditions.”

The Emerging Critical Needs policy allows for an organization to request up to three years of funding for an emerging critical need.  In all, First 5 San Diego has allocated more than $609,000 to the Black Infant Health Program over three years. These funds are matched on a 1:1 basis with Federal Title XIX dollars.

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