Black Moms and Babies Die More, Funding to Save Lives
By Dianne Anderson
Black Infant Health providers are ecstatic with the long-awaited latest addition to their family – a $25,000 little bundle of joy now starts the first phase of a culturally competent awareness campaign to help Black moms and their babies stay alive.
It’s the first of many Long Beach dollars to trickle down to address horrific numbers of Black infants and their mothers who are dying at two to four times the rate of white infants and mothers.
Time has not made a dent in the desperate statistics that exist nationally, statewide and locally.
Gwendolyn Manning said the grant that she initiated came through as a $500,000 extension spanning two years is set to kickstart a mass media campaign. The recent $25,000 supports the first phase development of a BIH website and an app to push access and awareness for Black moms throughout the state.
The funding fuels a lifesaving effort to reach the community. Everyone is waiting, but until the dollars come in full, increasing awareness is at a standstill.
“It’s not just about promoting the program, this money is designed as a public awareness campaign about issues of Black maternal and child health birth disparities. That message can’t go out across the state of California until all the funding has been released,” said Manning, BIH Program Coordinator of Long Beach Health and Human Services Department
Last September, the California Department of Public Health awarded the city’s Health and Human Services Department a $1,000,000 grant, which includes two fiscal years at $500,000 of program coordination, development and implementation of the BIH program statewide public awareness campaign.
The money was designated and allocated last year, but gridlock at the policy level held up the process, she said. It’s now pushing eight months to get fully funded, and she’s getting nervous as they wait that more Black lives are at stake.
Long Beach is the lead fiscal agent and working with BIH partners spanning several counties statewide, including a collaboration grantee Alameda County Public Health Department. The campaign covers 17 BIH program areas, including Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego.
Manning said the campaign is being run by a trusted local Black vendor with a proven track record who has worked with her BIH program for years.
But getting through the city’s selection protocol has been grinding slow, which was designed to ensure fairness in the city selection process, but the Black vendor she uses was not on a pre-approved list. She requested an “Exception to Policy” to help expedite the campaign.
Manning is excited about the first installment, but the clock is ticking on the rest of the funding to get their campaign rolling before the fiscal year runs out. Her grant extension for $500,000 accommodates BIH campaigns statewide, not just for Long Beach.
Although Fresno has a different policy in place, she said they’ve already moved on their funding for their consultant vendor in starting their area campaign.
Concerns around Black infant health also figures predominantly in the city’s initial Racial Equity and Reconciliation report calling for a new Black Health Center. Participants wanted to see funding for a centralized location that incorporates community care workers, public health interventionists, doulas, and patient navigators from the Black community.
“Many Black community members were concerned about the number of Black staff employed at the Health Department. The absence of Black staff makes it difficult for Black community members to trust the quality of services received at the Health Department,” the report said.
Manning, who has been connected to BIH for decades, said it’s a great program for advocacy and empowerment education, but the program model doesn’t scratch the surface of what’s needed in the community.
She said everyone should be concerned that the city has 13% Black residents, but no centralized or galvanized space specifically for the Black community to access health help, only smaller fragmented locations. Other groups, such as the Cambodians, LatinX and LGBTQ, all have their own resource centers.
“We don’t have a program model for people to get actual service. We connect people, we send them to referrals but we need something in Long Beach that provides service to Black mom and black babies. That is lacking,” she said.
Going forward, she said the only solution for successful outreach and connection to health in the community is to develop a fiscal agent for the Black community.
“Many times we’re working with other fiscal agents who are not Black, and that don’t understand the dynamics of why it’s important to have a consciousness around being Black-serving, around being culturally responsive,” she said.
In a 2018 report by Los Angeles County, y Department of Public Health and statewide partners considered a five-year plan to reduce the county’s Black-White gap in infant mortality.
“The IMR for Black babies is 10.4, meaning that a Black newborn in Los Angeles County is more than three times as likely to die as a White newborn, more than two and a half times as likely to die as a Latino newborn, and more than five times as likely to experience death in the first year of life as an infant identified as Asian/Pacific Islander,” the report says.
For more information on BIH, see
To see the report, http://longbeach.gov/globalassets/health/media-library/documents/healthy-living/office-of-equity/reconciliation/report-racial-equity-and-reconciliation-intiative
Also, for Los Angeles County, see