Black infants in Fresno County are twice as likely to die as white infants before they reach their first birthday. Statistics from the Fresno County Health Department show, the infant mortality rate in 2019 was at 10.3 for Black infants, compared to 5.8 for white infants. Although the infant mortality rate has declined nationally and locally, disparities among racial lines persist. Fresno is part of a national initiative designed to change those statistics.
The Best Babies Zone Initiative was created to improve health outcomes for pregnant moms and infants, and transform communities into healthy spaces so babies can grow and reach their full potential. There are nine Zones across the United States, and West Fresno was chosen to be one of them. As a result, the local program is able to work with a national organization of maternal and child health leaders and to co-create a Best Babies Zone tailored to the needs of residents in West Fresno.
The local Best Babies Zone, now powered by Fresno EOC, will officially re-launch on April 11. Fresno GROWS (Growing Real Opportunities In West Fresno) is a collaboration of community members and partners from health systems, early education, and economic development. They include Local Champions, the Fresno County Department of Public Health, First 5 Fresno County, and UCSF, all committed to community-driven action to save babies. The focus for civic engagement and community organizing in West Fresno is on four census tracts in the 93706 zip code that have the highest Black infant mortality rates.
Medical experts acknowledge that poor birth outcomes are part of a larger reality, reflecting inconsistent investment in neighborhoods and structural racism. When your next-door neighbor is a heavy industrial facility rather than green space, this increases the whole family’s exposure to excessive amounts of pollution. According to Cal EPA, a majority of the 93706 area code lies within a census tract that rates higher than 75-percent of the census tracts in California for toxic releases. This type of exposure can result in higher rates of preterm birth and asthma.
Fresno GROWS Best Babies Zone believes its goals are achievable with community members and organizations committing to equitable policies that acknowledge racism as a structural root cause of health disparities. The initiative aims to connect community members and organize their voices and efforts to make a difference. Program Coordinator Desiree Miller says, “The work will be community-led and community-driven. We will provide tools to help women identify the internal and external stressors around pregnancy, and co-create sustainable solutions.”
Information and resources for community members on how to can join in this work will be available on the Fresno GROWS Best Babies Zone website.
Our hub location has changed, but our mission remains the same! – Fresno GROWS Best Babies Zone – powered by Fresno EOC