About Us

The Challenge

Too many babies in the U.S. are dying at birth or in their first year, at a rate that is higher than almost any other developed nation. These negative effects are not equitably distributed throughout our population, with communities of color experiencing disproportionately higher rates of infant mortality, preterm birth, and low birth weight. As we have seen, traditional health care approaches alone have not been successful in addressing these racial and economic disparities.  Drawing from the Life Course Theory, BBZ recognizes that birth outcomes are related to the lived experiences of where we live, work, and play, from one generation to the next. To create lasting change that improves the health of babies over time, we believe a bold, outside-the-box approach is needed.

History

The Best Babies Zone (BBZ) Initiative is a place-based, multi-site, multi-sector approach to reducing disparities in infant mortality and birth outcomes by mobilizing community residents and organizational partners to address the social and economic determinants of health. The BBZ Initiative began in March 2012 with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, with the following Mission and Vision:

Mission:

To give every baby born in a Best Babies Zone the best chance in life.

Vision:

Every baby is born healthy, into communities that enable them to thrive and reach their full potential.

To achieve this, the BBZ Initiative has focused on a multi-level strategy, simultaneously engaging with place-based and national-level work.

Who We Are

The BBZ Initiative started with three pilot zones, a BBZ national team, and several national partners and organizations. Since 2012, the three pilot communities (Cohort 1) in Oakland, CA, New Orleans, LA, and Cincinnati, OH have launched and developed Best Babies Zones. In each city, a small geographic zone was identified based on the presence of thriving community-based organizations, a sense of community pride and engagement, recognized economic hardship, poor birth outcomes, and racial disparities in these birth outcomes.

Driven by the ongoing interest in place-based approaches to improving birth outcomes, BBZ received another round of funding in 2016 from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to build a national Technical Assistance Center (TAC) to harness the lessons learned from the three pilot communities and expand the number of communities implementing the BBZ approach. Three additional communities—Cohort 2 of Best Babies Zones—were selected in 2016 to receive targeted technical assistance from the TAC, and a third cohort is expected to join BBZ at the end of 2017. These new communities are in Indianapolis, IN, Kalamazoo, MI, and Portland, OR.

At the national level, the BBZ Initiative is supported by three collaborative entities:

  • The National Team at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) School of Public Health, which provides guidance, technical assistance, and support to each of the individual zones while coordinating feedback and support provided by the Policy Corps and the Multi-Sector Advisory Group.
  • The Policy Corps Team (Policy Corps) consists of key national partners, BBZ site representatives, and leading MCH consultants who provide leadership and technical assistance for the Initiative and connect BBZ’s work to national efforts to reduce inequities in birth outcomes.
  • The Multi-Sector Advisory Group (MSAG) includes an evolving group of organizations representing diverse sectors (including economic development, housing, early childhood education, transportation, etc.) to support the BBZ initiative’s commitment to applying the principles of collective impact and multisector collaboration to our national and zonal efforts.

What We Do

Locally

Each individual zone’s work is deeply rooted in resident-driven priorities and realities to achieve the BBZ Initiative’s Mission and Vision in their own community (check out our visual overview of how zones work in their communities).

Following the initial support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, each of the zones has received additional financial support from other funders, including the California Wellness Foundation, the California Endowment, an anonymous donor to The San Francisco Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, and The Kresge Foundation. Check out the Zone pages to learn more.


Nationally

The BBZ National Team supports each site as they work with community residents and local partners to develop and strengthen their community-based work.  In addition, the BBZ National Team convenes learning collaborative meetings for all BBZ sites and BBZ partners, and works closely with the BBZ Policy Corps and MSAG to further the work of reducing inequities in birth outcomes and address structural and institutional issues that contribute to poor birth outcomes. In the Summer of 2016, the BBZ Initiative received additional support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to develop a technical assistance center (TAC), building on the lessons learned in the first four years of the work. The BBZ TAC’s mission is to support communities in the implementation of Best Babies Zones that advance social equality and eliminate perinatal health inequities. The TAC will focus on developing new zones, providing technical assistance to MCH-related and non-health organizations interested in bringing a stronger social determinants of health, health equity, and place-based, multi-sector approach to their work. To learn more about how we evaluate our work and how that work has progressed since 2012, please see our Data page.

Join Us:

If you are interested in getting involved with the Best Babies Zone locally in one of our zone communities or starting a new zone in your area, please contact us.

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