Best Babies Zone: Wake's community-driven effort to address alarming infant mortality rates

Joel Brown Image
Thursday, August 5, 2021

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Infant mortality rates in the U.S. are already the worst in the developed world but survival rates among Black moms and infants are even more dismal. Wednesday night, Wake County Human Services took on the disproportionate numbers head-on.

"We want them to feel like when they go to this resource, it's gonna welcome them with open arms," said Dauline Singletary, Wake County public health educator.

It was the third town hall of Wake County's Best Babies Zone initiative. It is a national community-driven effort to reduce racial inequities in infant mortality and birth outcomes. The focus now is southeast Raleigh's 27610 and 27601 ZIP codes. The goal: build something the community can take and grow with.

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"With Brayden, there was a lot of anxiety around me being pregnant this time. I never made it past three months."

"We want to develop those building blocks or that foundation we want it to be something that when we step away the community keeps that initiative," Singletary told the town hall.

The numbers are stark statewide: 6.8 of every 1,000 babies do not survive past infancy. For Black babies, it's 12.5. That's more than double the rate of white and Hispanic infants.

It's more disturbing in Wake County: 13 of every 1,000 Black infants die in their first year; 2.5 white babies; 6.7 Hispanic infants.

The Best Babies Zone is aimed at addressing the social, structural and economic determinants of health and promoting equity.

Wednesday's town hall unveiled a new peer support and mentoring program, The Mind Over Matter (M.O.M).

"We want to destigmatize and eliminate shame. You are not crazy. We want to break down isolation. You are not alone," said program organizer Shiva Liverman, a maternal mental health advocate.

The next Best Babies Zone town hall is next month. On August 28, leaders are planning a community baby shower with free diapers and wipes for moms and families. The event begins at 10 a.m..