NEW ORLEANS, LA–Today, the New Orleans Health Department and the LSU School of Public Health celebrated the launch of the Best Babies Zone (BBZ), an innovative, multi-sector approach that mobilizes local partners in defined neighborhood zones to ensure that all babies have the best chance to thrive and reach their full potential.
Over the next 10 years, Hollygrove residents, Healthy Start New Orleans, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and community-based agencies will work together to address health, economics, education and community systems to support better and healthier outcomes in the community.
New Orleans is one of three cities selected nationally by the Kellogg Foundation to implement a Best Babies Zone and work in partnership with national leaders to change outcomes for families. The other selected cities were Cincinnati, Ohio and Oakland, California.
“Best Babies Zone is another exciting example of how New Orleans is leading the nation as an innovator in improving the public’s health,” said Dr. Karen DeSalvo, the City’s Health Commissioner. “Through this project, we have a unique opportunity to achieve collective impact and improve birth outcomes in Hollygrove.
“Creating a Best Babies Zone allows us to address social determinants of health that are outside of the medical care of patients---and to focus on the fundamentals of health—safe living environments, healthy food, adequate education and economic opportunity,” said Dr. Rebekah Gee, Assistant Professor of Public Health and Obstetrics and Gynecology at Louisiana State University and co-principal investigator of the grant.
In 2012, nearly 20% of babies born in a three-quarter mile section of the Hollygrove neighborhood were born with low birth weights, or weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces. By comparison, 12.8% of infants born last year in Orleans Parish were low birth weight. And at 10.4%, Louisiana is tied with Mississippi as the state with the highest rates of low birth weight babies.
The work of the Best Babies Zone has already begun, with early successes including a health fair, outreach to connect residents with social and health services, outreach to local childcare providers and targeted outreach to substance abusers and mothers in an area that is a hotspot for violent crime and drug use and a employment seminar for residents in partnership with JOB1/ the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development.
Today’s official launch was attended by local health officials and BBZ partners including representatives from Trinity Christian Community Center, New Orleans Health Department, Louisiana State University Health Science Center, and Carrollton-Hollygrove Community Development Corporation.
The special guest was Mario Drummonds, Executive Director of the Northern Manhattan Perinatal Project (NMPP) and co-creator of the NMPP’s birth outcome model, parts of which helped reduce infant mortality by 20% in Harlem with a zonal approach.
“The Best Baby Zone approach to MCH practice has the potential to improve women's health and birth outcomes at the local level in New Orleans,” Drummonds said. “Women living in Harlem 15 years ago experienced violence in the form of a high infant mortality and low birth weight rates and women entering prenatal care in the third trimester. We started from the bottom now we are here based on hard work, adhering to a strategy and working with systems and women to change their behaviors to improve the health of the community.”
About Healthy Start
The mission of Healthy Start New Orleans is to promote healthy communities by nurturing healthy pregnancies, healthy babies, and healthy families. We envision healthy families and communities who are empowered, independent, and supported by a network of strong partners agencies. We offer outreach, health education, teen, male, and grandparent programs, and case management services to help families who are pregnant or have a child under two years old get off to a good start and have a healthy start in life. Healthy Start New Orleans is supported in part by project H49MC00099-07-0, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Resources and Services Administration Maternal & Child Bureau (Title V-Social Security).