The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency Thursday began Black Legacy Now, an education and outreach campaign to improve health outcomes for Black babies and their mothers.

In San Diego County, Black infants are three times more likely to die at birth and 60% more likely to be premature than white infants.

The new campaign supports the county’s Perinatal Equity Initiative, funded with a $1.45 million grant from the California Department of Public Health, to reduce racial bias to improve birth and maternal health outcomes for Black families.

“While it is often said, `It takes a village to raise a child,’ it will take each and every one of us to stand up to long-standing inequities,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. “The first step is education, followed by community-wide action. This launch is the first step in what will be a long-term campaign focused on driving real, measurable change for Black families in San Diego County.”

The initiative’s goals are to:

  • Address the causes of persistent inequality and identify best practices;
  • Promote the use of specific interventions designed to fill gaps in current programming;
  • Provide funding to promote leadership and coordination for widespread and lasting change in public awareness.

Black mothers in California are three times more likely to die due to pregnancy and delivery complications than white mothers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These health outcome disparities persist regardless of factors, such as the mother’s income or education.

“These disparities are unjust, inexcusable and cannot be allowed to persist,” said Nathan Fletcher, chair of the county Board of Supervisors. “Racism is a significant threat to the health and vitality of our community and none of us can stand idly by while babies and mothers continue to die.”

Dr. Kelly Elmore, Perinatal Equity Initiative community advisory board member and board-certified OB/GYN, outlined potential changes for local health care systems including:

  • Standardization of maternal and infant care protocols for physicians and patient education;
  • An increase in remote patient monitoring for new parent support;
  • Incorporating mental health counseling into routine postpartum care;
  • Updates to patient discharge instructions to provide new mothers with simple instructions and tips for knowing when to seek medical help; and
  • Increased access to alternative birthing centers and midwifery.

The HHSA already funds the San Diego County Black Infant Health Program, which offers social support and stress management through prenatal/postpartum groups and one-on-one sessions intended to help women understand risks and try to reduce them.

Additionally, the Perinatal Equity Initiative has a Fatherhood Initiative for soon-to-be fathers and those with an infant up to 1 year of age and whose partner is Black, as well as implicit bias training for medical providers to improve services for Black pregnant and parenting women.

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