Mayor Dixon Announces Baltimore City Birth Outcomes Effort
On April 8, 2009, Baltimore City Mayor Sheila Dixon announces a major three-year, city-wide strategy to improve birth outcomes. She was joined by representatives of the Baltimore City Health Department, Maryland's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and the Family League of Baltimore City. CareFirst has made a commitment of $3 million over three years to fund the program.
Advocates for Children and Youth has consistently drawn attention over the past year to Maryland's poor birth outcomes and their high financial cost. The problem is statewide, and Baltimore City is among the first jurisdictions to commit to address the problem.
In announcing the initiative, Mayor Dixon highlighted the fact that in 2007, 112 babies from Baltimore city died before their first birthday. Of these, 106 were born to African- American mothers. The rate of infant death in Baltimore was 11.3 per 1,000 live births in 2007, the second highest of Maryland jurisdictions, and higher than the rates of some developing countries. African-Americans babies in Baltimore are three times more likely to die during their first year than white babies.
The Strategy to Improve Birth Outcomes is premised on the understanding that many factors contribute to pre-term birth, low birthweight and unsafe sleep—the three leading causes of excess infant death in the city. These factors include the health of the mother and the father before conception, medical and social support during pregnancy, and access to critical information and services after birth.
The birth outcomes plan targets 12 neighborhoods and proposes that a community-based program in each of these areas take responsibility for community birth outcomes. Backed by a citywide media campaign, these programs will employ intensive outreach and education to generate demand and utilization for each of eleven recognized high impact services. At the same time, local health agencies and Maryland's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) will work to expand the scale, quality and capacity of these high impact services.
In speaking for DHMH at the release of Baltimore’s new initiative, Fran Phillips, Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services, stated that the State cannot reduce its infant mortality, low birthweight and prematurity rates without success in Baltimore. She pointed out that disparities in infant mortality and birth outcomes exist across the State and noted that strategies like the new initiative in Baltimore must be taken to every jurisdiction.
The Baltimore City initiative is significant not only because of the consensus it represents in moving forward to address a complex and persistent health issue, but also because the City has set specific measures of success for the next three years. The goals are a 10 percent decline in prematurity, a 10 percent decline in low birthweight and a 30 percent decline in deaths from unsafe sleep. In addition, the success of community programs in linking residents to the identified high-impact services will be closely tracked and local agencies will be accountable for efforts on capacity and quality. It is a strategy worth emulating throughout the State and beyond.