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African-American infants are nearly two and a half times more likely to die before their first birthday than other infants.
The goal of The Birthing Project is to keep more babies of color alive by recruiting, training and supporting community SisterFriend volunteers. They provide direction, emotional support and education to mothers that continues for one year after the baby is born. During this year, the Sister Friend helps her little sister obtain the parenting and life survival skills, such as finding and using resources (housing, transportation, childcare); identifying and pursuing educational and employment goals; and understanding that she is an important and valued member of the community
As a public health program advisor with the California State Department of Health Services, Kathryn Hall was well aware of the big picture of health care and its costs when she began The Birthing Project in 1988. At that time, her intent was to ask ten community volunteers to provide one-on-one friendship, education and practical support to ten pregnant teens and women as a way of demonstrating that this was a cost effective way of decreasing infant mortality and morbidity in the African-American community.
All public health professionals use the term "infant mortality" almost on a daily basis. It was not until Ms. Hall held a 10-day old baby boy named DeAndre shortly after his life slipped away, that she internalized the meaning of those words as "counting dead babies." DeAndre's short life became the impetus for The Birthing Project to become both a method of improving birth outcomes and a national movement to educate and invite community people to become involved.
Each of the founding mothers of The Birthing Project were paired with a pregnant teen or woman, serving as her friend, elder sister and advocate during her pregnancy and until the child's first birthday. The founding father provided support to the babies' fathers.
Since then, over 12,000 babies have been born into over 94 birthing Projects nationally. Although our services target African American women, we welcome pregnant women of all ethnicities who need medical care and social support to optimize their birth outcomes
- Tamara Prosper
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