Chicago’s West Side community of East Garfield Park joins a national Best Babies Zone (BBZ) Initiative to address racial disparities in infant mortality and birth outcomes through place-based, multi-sector, and community-driven approaches. The first strategic task of the East Garfield Park BBZ will be to enlist a larger group of East Garfield Park residents to inform the group’s mission and guide the team’s approach to engaging other residents and understanding the needs of families in East Garfield Park.
“The BBZ Initiative recognizes that structural factors, like racism, play a key role in the racial disparities seen in maternal and infant mortality,” said Martina Coe, West Side United’s Healthcare Program Manager.
The West Side institutions of Sinai Health System/Sinai Urban Health Institute (SHS/SUHI), Rush University Medical Center (RUMC), and West Side United (WSU), along with the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), will lead the East Garfield Park BBZ effort with assistance from CityMatCH, a national organization of urban maternal and child health leaders that houses the BBZ Initiative with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
As part of its strategy, the East Garfield Park BBZ hopes to work with residents to identify solutions that meet families where they live, going beyond the hospital walls to address social factors that lead to poor health outcomes.
“Two critical aspects of the BBZ Initiative are that they support sustainable efforts driven by community residents themselves, and that they encourage solutions that go beyond clinical care. Existing cohorts have listened to community residents and focused their solutions on things like housing and economic opportunity,” said Pamela Roesch, Director of Health Equity and Assessment Research at Sinai Urban Health Institute. Published research has shown that the BBZ model has proven effective in neighborhoods like Price Hill, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Chicago’s infant mortality rate in 2017 was 6.6 deaths per 1,000 live births — higher than the rate for the United States as a whole (5.8), which is already higher than that of comparable nations. In East Garfield Park, the infant mortality rate in 2013-2017 was 13.3 deaths per 1,000 births — higher than in other surrounding communities. Additionally, the city’s infant mortality rate among non-Hispanic Black infants was more than three times that of non-Hispanic White infants and more than two times that of Latinx infants.
“We are committed to ensuring that every baby in Chicago is born into a community that is healthy, strong, and thriving”, said Jennifer Seo, M.D., CDPH Medical Director for the Maternal, Infant, Child and Adolescent Health Bureau. “To achieve health equity in our city, it is critical that we address the drivers of infant mortality, including social, racial, and economic disparities.”
The BBZ Initiative targets small geographic “zones” — neighborhoods with a demonstrated need as well as strong community organizations capable of leading efforts — to address racial and social inequities in birth outcomes. Since its inception in 2012, the BBZ Initiative has launched in nine cities and neighborhoods across the United States. Chicago’s East Garfield Park BBZ joins the Initiative’s fourth cohort alongside Fresno, CA; Kansas City, MO; and, Wake County (Raleigh), NC.
Charles Jolie, Charles_L_Jolie@rush.edu, Rush University Medical Center and West Side United
Elena Ivanova, Elena.Ivanova@cityofchicago.org, Chicago Department of Public Health
Dan Regan, Dan.Regan@sinai.org, Sinai Health System/Sinai Urban Health Institute