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Black Infant Health Program Supports African American Community

Black Infant Health Program

Santa Clara County’s Black Infant Health Program (BIH) improves the lives and relationships of infants and their mothers by focusing on managing stress, nutrition and building healthy relationships with their children.

The program was brought to this county in 1991 as part of a statewide initiative to address the high infant mortality rate among African American mothers. “If the infant mortality rate is the highest in the African-American community, the community’s health suffers overall,” said Beverly White-Macklin, deputy director of BIH.

She said elevated stress, social circumstances, and racism are contributing factors to the high mortality rate, so the BIH classes are tailored to reduce that level. “Mothers learn a variety of things, based on a state-provided curriculum that’s culturally sensitive to African American women, so that is the difference between our group classes and one she would attend, say, at a health center,” said White-Macklin.

Immigrants make up a large portion of the program because they feel isolated after coming into the U.S. “We have women coming in from Ethiopia, East and West Africa, and other places all over the world, and so there are various different needs that we have to add components to,” said White-Macklin.  

Program Participants tell their stories

The program connects African American mothers with counselors who can advise them how to deal with their situation. “I felt like they were genuine,” said Lissa Keyes, a mother participating in the program. “I felt like they just really wanted to help and really wanted to make sure that I had known. The program brings me back because I learned so much information on how to prepare for [my first child] that I felt like it wasn’t enough, so I came back!”

Program times

The program is twenty weeks, with 3-hour group classes. “In those group classes, they’re able to connect with other women in their circle,” said White-Macklin. “They’re also able to connect with women in the African American community who reside here, and are able to have a common language and build group support with these women because they are also going through the same thing throughout their pregnancy.”

Keyes said hearing other people’s stories that either relate to her life or are different is helpful. “It really lets me know that I’m not the only one going through so many issues, so many problems in my life,” said Keyes.

And the program broadens opportunities for mothers like Keyes. “I’ve seen this program act as a funnel for other services and service providers for our community here,” said White-Macklin. “So a family who may have had a pregnant mom in their family, someone who has come through the program and knows about us, may refer someone else to the program who needs a service, maybe a service we don’t provide but we know who to refer her to.”

For More Information

For more information on the BIH program, call ( 408) 937-2270.

February 9, 2017

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