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Reducing Pregnancy and Birth Risks for African Americans with Integrated Community Care

Pregnancies and birth outcomes among African Americans nationally and within Minnesota are disparate when compared to expecting White mothers and babies.  Both the infant mortality rate and the likelihood of low birth weight are twice as high for African American babies.  And, as per the CDC, African American women are three to four times more likely to die after giving birth.  To reduce such health disparities and increase education of pregnancy outcomes among African Americans in the Twin Cities metro area, the Minnesota Department of Human Services launched the Integrated Care for High Risk Pregnancies (ICHRP) initiative in mid-2017.  The ultimate goal? Ensuring that African American babies in Minnesota are born healthy.

An integrated, community approach to address prenatal care for African American women

Local partners leading the ICHRP initiative are The African American Babies Coalition (AABC) & Projects, NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center in Minneapolis and the West Side Community Health Services in St. Paul. Already invested in addressing health outcomes, access, and awareness within African American communities, these three organizations are working together within the Minneapolis-Saint Paul region using an integrated, holistic approach to care and early intervention. 

According to MN DHS, early access to quality prenatal services and informative support for expecting mothers has been an effective way to decrease the possibilities of premature births and low birth weights, improve quality of health and life, and reduce future complications for babies once they are born. Culturally relevant clinical care and prenatal services will be provided by NorthPoint and West Side in the Twin Cities, while AABC will continue to further the knowledge of baby and brain development, health equity, disparities and justice.

Engaging African American communities through education and training

The African American Babies Coalition (AABC) & Projects will continue to build on its decade-long efforts of promoting healthy brain and child development practices among African Americans. And now, this high risk initiative for pregnancies has added another imperative aspect to AABC’s mission – elevating the care of mothers’, families’, and babies’ health and development before they are born.

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Through the lenses of trauma-informed care, culturally specific practices and community engagements with African American families and parents as well as healthcare providers, clinic staff, and social workers, AABC’s efforts include:

  • Connections to community support and clinics like NorthPoint and West Side.
  • Doula training and certification to assist pregnant women during childbirth and support the family or parents once the baby is born.   
  • Individual and group parenting classes for teens and adults.
  • Education on critical topics such as baby and brain development from conception through early years, disparities like low birth weight, and behavioral outcomes from early traumatic experiences.
  • Hub of Wellness Radio Show discussing human factors, social determinants of health, and information for expectant mothers (free to listen on SoundCloud).
  • Resources such as the Brains are Built Campaign that supports African Americans caring for babies which includes Emmy-winning educational videos produced by AABC in partnership with the Twin Cities Public Television (TPT).

The results of this initiative will be reported to the legislature in 2019 for further actions, enhancements and improvements to existing systems, culturally specific and integrated models of care specifically for African American families. AABC and its clinical partners in the ICHRP initiative will continue to catalyze their work and relationships with African Americans to increase awareness of disparities and support healthy pregnancies and babies in the Twin Cities. 

The following websites, articles and reports have been curated from various local and national sources to give you more information, research and news on maternal health, pregnancy and birth disparities:

Wilder Foundation

Minnesota Departments of Health & Human Services

State and National Media

Sameerah Bilal-Roby is Program Manager for the Integrated Care High Risk Pregnancies Initiative (ICHRP) and Director of the African American Babies Coalition (AABC) Projects, a Wilder Community Initiatives partner.

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Contributing author, Huda Bashir is the 2018 AmeriCorps Public Ally with the African American Babies Coalition & Projects working as the Community Capacity Building Specialist. Huda graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and has since been working in community development and engagement. Her work has taken her from Wisconsin to Johannesburg, South Africa, and back to Minnesota. Upon completion of her term of service with AmeriCorps, she plans to complete a dual master’s degree in Public Policy and Public Health. She believes in the power of story and narrative, and sees them as pivotal tools for healing, understanding, and social change.