When B’more for Healthy Babies began in 2009, Baltimore City had one of the worst rates of infant mortality in the country (13.5 percent). Black babies were five times more likely to die than white babies, reflecting deep health disparities. After years of service improvements as well as public health campaigns designed by the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, the rate has dropped to an historic low of 8.4 (2015) and the disparity between deaths of white and black babies has narrowed by more than 50 percent.
Working with the Baltimore City Health Department, CCP is the lead communication partner for the B’more for Healthy Babies initiative to improve birth outcomes in Baltimore. CCP supports the initiative with strategy, branding, campaigns, evaluation, social media and outreach to communities and health providers.
CCP also develops communication materials for B’more for Healthy Babies’ coalitions on teen pregnancy prevention, intervention for substance use and mental health, breastfeeding, early literacy development/school readiness and other health topics. CCP’s scope continues to expand as the initiative implements a life course approach.
Central to the project has been a focus on citywide campaigns promoting safe sleep for infants. CCP implements a citywide campaign nearly every year. In addition to safe sleep, other topics have included a media campaign to limit cigarette smoke around infants and pregnant woman and a digital campaign to promote breastfeeding among black mothers.
In 2009, sleep-related deaths were the second-leading cause of death among infants in the city and highly preventable. Since the program began:
- Baltimore had its lowest ever number of sleep-related infant deaths in recorded history in 2016. This success reflects years of work to institutionalize CCP’s safe sleep education — including a series of powerful videos featuring Baltimore families — in birthing hospitals and other systems supporting pregnant women. CCP has conducted a SLEEP SAFE media or digital campaign nearly every year since 2010.
- The teen birth rate has dropped by 44 percent (2009-2015) through a comprehensive program that includes CCP’s development of a website and social media for teens.
- In 2016, CCP facilitated the development of a comprehensive health and wellness strategy for youth ages six though 19. CCP is helping the project begin work in two new areas for children from birth to age five: reduce child abuse/neglect and improve school readiness.
- CCP shares in the project’s commitment to undoing racism, that is helping to address some of the city’s deep health disparities, such as the infant mortality rate that is two times greater among black infants than white infants (2015).
- CCP has supported annual provider and community outreach events to bring awareness to the initiative, such as Rattle & Roll Day and the annual event at the National Aquarium.
- CCP helped organize the Precious Purple Sunday campaign in 2016, designed to bring the messages of healthy and safe babies to church pulpits. Pastors were encouraged to remind worshipers that all babies need a safe sleep routine — they need to sleep alone, on their backs and in a crib, in a home that is smoke-free. They also received messaging on how to make breastfeeding in church easier, ways to support moms in their communities and how to connect to B’more for Healthy Babies resources.
CCP created and conducted a social media campaign to increase commitment to breastfeeding among African American women, including videos of mothers who have successfully overcome some of the common challenges associated with breastfeeding.