Direct services and community coalition focused on racial inequities and providing linkage to care
The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) announced today that it has been awarded a new five-year grant of $4.8 million from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for the Boston Healthy Start Initiative (BHSI). The BHSI is focused on eliminating racial inequities in infant mortality and related birth outcomes through direct support of pregnant and parenting women, children and fathers through care coordination, connection to resources, health education, and advocacy.
This new grant focuses on the neighborhoods of Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan and Hyde Park which are areas of the city that have higher than average infant mortality rates. According to data analyzed by BPHC staff, including some from the most recent Health of Boston report, the infant mortality rate between 2013-2015 for Black women in these four neighborhoods was 10.3 per 1,000 live births is almost double the overall Boston rate (5.8) and is 3.5 times the rate for White women citywide (2.9). Data analysis also shows promise, as the rate of infant mortality in Black babies decreased by 36% between 2006-2015, suggesting that the long-term investments in programs such as BSHI may be having an impact on health outcomes.
"The Boston Healthy Start Initiative takes a comprehensive, lived-experience based approach to address some of the causes linked to infant mortality. We have built on the existing community assets and significant progress that has been made over the years. This funding allows us to provide services directly to families and engage the community in addressing the root causes of racial inequities influencing infant mortality," said Monica Valdes Lupi, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission.
This grant will fund case managers, known as Family Partners, embedded within the Codman Square Health Center, Mattapan Community Health Center, Whitter Street Health Center, Bowdoin Street Health Center and the Teen & Tot Program at Boston Medical Center.
BHSI Family Partners provide one-on-one support to mothers during pregnancy and through the first 18 months of the infant's life to support them reach their goals for their family, including help enrolling in health insurance, health education, support with breastfeeding and safe sleep, accessing mental or behavioral health services, among others. They also provide linkage to resources to address social determinants of health: housing and food insecurity issues, education, employment and legal topics. Importantly, family partners bring their lived-experiences to their work which often includes being an advocate on behalf of mothers and babies.
"We are pleased to receive this funding to continue our commitment, advocacy and services in striving for birth equity and optimal population health for individuals of color and communities disproportionately impacted by health inequities. We have made progress in infant mortality rates however there is still much more work to be done, said Heavenly Mitchell, Director, Healthy Start Systems at BPHC.
In addition to funding for family partners, this new grant will fund staffing and programmatic expenses to operate two other programs coordinated by BSHI: the Community Action Network (CAN) and the Father Friendly Initiative. The CAN is a group of community residents and organizations working together to reduce racial inequities in infant mortality and poor birth outcomes in Boston through policy and community level changes. The Father Friendly Initiative provides opportunities to men living in the city of Boston to become fully involved members of their families and community.
BPHC was one of the original grantees of funding from HRSA when it began piloting HSI in 1991. Phone numbers for residents to connect with a BHSI Family Partner can be found on its website, by clicking here.
The Boston Healthy Start Initiative is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Boston Public Health Commission.