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UC Berkeley School of Public Health awarded $2.75 million grant to launch Best Babies Zones in four U.S. cities

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has awarded a $2.75 million grant to the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health to implement a three-year pilot initiative, Best Babies Zone (BBZ), aimed at improving birth outcomes for infants and addressing health disparities in four major U.S. cities – Cincinnati, Milwaukee, New Orleans and Oakland, Calif.

“Infant mortality is a powerful measure of the social inequities that exists in our nation,” says Dr. Cheri Pies, clinical professor at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and principal investigator of the BBZ. “The goal of the Best Babies Zone Initiative is to close the infant mortality gap by helping communities build capacities so that babies are born into communities that enable them to thrive and reach their full potential.”

As BBZ works towards their goals of improving infant mortality rates, the organization employs three primary strategies: identifying a small zone where change is greatly needed and resources are aligned to produce and measure impact; forming a broad collaborative to work across health, economics, education and community to achieve collective impact; and cultivating a social movement within the city to do whatever it takes to improve birth outcomes in the zone.

Similar to the successful Harlem Children’s Zone, the BBZ Initiative takes a holistic approach. BBZ works to improve health systems by increasing access to quality prenatal and intrapartum care; provide pipelines to educational success beginning with “baby college” and quality early learning opportunities; and strengthen economic systems through microfinance, job readiness and financial management programs. The BBZ pilots in the four cities will serve as a blueprint for site development and implementation in other cities across the country.

“The Kellogg Foundation believes in healing the profound gaps and disparities that exist in our country,” says Dr. Gail C. Christopher, vice president – program strategy for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “By concentrating on improving birth outcomes and taking a holistic approach, the Best Babies Zone Initiative will be giving our most vulnerable children the best chance to succeed against inequities they face.”

The UC Berkeley School of Public Health will serve as the lead agency for the BBZ Initiative. Major collaborators on this project will include a consortium of national organizations including the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP), CityMatCH and National Healthy Start Association.

For more information, visit sph.berkeley.edu.

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