BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — According to the Kern County Department of Public Health, approximately one in seven African American babies in California is born too early or too small. But that is why the Black Infant Health (BIH) program has services on hand to assist African American mothers during their pregnancy, labor, and delivery stages.
With a culturally supportive environment, and honoring the unique history of black women, expecting black mothers in our community are able to interact and build a sisterhood with those in the same situation.
Phela Batiste, maternal child and adolescent health coordinator, said the program offers sessions that cover a number of topics including cultural heritage, healthy pregnancy, labor, and delivery, among others. She added that the pandemic did not stop the program from being a helping hand.
“We do offer both group sessions as well as case management. The group sessions consist of ten prenatal group sessions and ten postpartum group sessions. Our case management actually mimics the group model. However, those case management sessions are more condensed,” explained Batiste. “Since the pandemic, the program has continued to thrive and it may have done a little bit better, especially the fact that moms are able to be in their homes and to join virtually.”
Setting Up Mothers for Life
The program not only focuses on the health and wellness of the baby but also sets up the mothers for life after they conclude the program. The personalized life planning sessions encourage them to set short and long-term goals within their personal lives.
“We go over life planning for the mothers. We also cover stress management for them and how to have healthy relationships, communication," explained Batiste.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), multiple circumstances such as variation in quality healthcare and underlying chronic conditions contribute to Black women from having fair opportunities for economic, physical, and emotional health. That is why the BIH program ensures that their attendees also have resources for assistance on housing, childcare, and food.
“We do prenatal, post-natal, as well as newborn care education for the moms because oftentimes we have a lot of first-time mothers.," said Batiste. "It’s a free program here and we would love to work with our mothers and babies. Just help you along to have healthy babies and improve your health as well to make great healthy life choices.”
Batiste added that there is a registered nurse, health education assistants, as well as a medical health professional that can stay in contact with mothers even after the baby is two years of age.
Batiste said stress management plays a huge role in the health of an expecting mother and that is why they are on a mission to impact not only the participants themselves but for future generations of black women, infants, and families.
Making an Impact on Poor Birth Outcomes
Batiste told 23ABC that the program has made a significant impact on the mothers as social and economic stressors play a major role in poor birth outcomes
“We did a sample of some of our participants and that showed that on average that women attended 7.2 out of 10 group sessions and 5.1 out of the life sessions and that’s a significant change where they improved in 13 of the 18 intermediate health and health-related outcomes that were examined in that sample.”
An evaluation of prenatal program implementation and outcomes was conducted for participants back in 2018 and found that more than 90% of the women agreed that the program helped them build stronger social connections, manage stress, as well as set and achieve goals.
"We are here to serve you, we are here to help you, to encourage you, to strengthen you,” added Batiste.
Batiste said that in order to enroll in the program, you must be 16 years of age or older, identify as a Black or African American woman who is either pregnant or up to six months postpartum.
The California Black Infant Health (BIH) Program aims to improve health among African American mothers and babies and to reduce the Black: White disparities by empowering pregnant and mothering African American women to make healthy choices for themselves, their families, and their communities.
- Prenatal and Postpartum Educational Intervention Group Sessions. These groups are designed to encourage and support a healthy pregnancy; and provide information and educate Participants on postpartum and infant care.
- Culturally—Sensitive Case Management. The BIH Program model uses a social service-oriented enhanced case management model that focuses on (a) identifying and triage Participant needs and facilitate access to prenatal and postpartum supportive services (to medical care as needed), while at the same time, (b) working with the client to identify and build on her strengths and resources to problem-solve, and obtain the services and support she needs.
- Support of Early and Continuous Prenatal Care
- Linkages to Related Community Resources and Services
- Advocacy of timely Immunizations and Well Baby Check-Ups Exams being up-to-date
Who is Eligible?
A woman is eligible for entry into BIH if she meets the following criteria:
- Is a self-identified African American woman who is up to 30 weeks pregnant
- Is 18 years of age or older
- Resides within Greater Bakersfield
- Consents to actively participate in the entire BIH program including:
→Individual enhanced case management
→Consent to release information from her prenatal care provider and from her baby’s birth certificate information