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Great Beginnings for Black Babies offers benefits for the whole family

OW Staff | 2/6/2013, 5 p.m.

For more than 22 years, Great Beginnings for Black Babies Inc. has provided stellar services to its base clientele--pregnant and parenting women. Founded in 1990 to address skyrocketing infant mortality rates in the African American community, Great Beginnings set about the business of impacting those negative rates by encouraging women to live healthy lives devoid of tobacco, alcohol or drugs.

When Great Beginnings was founded in 1990, 19 out of 1,000 Black babies did not live to see their first birthday. And, while infant death rates have improved, African American babies still are dying at two and sometimes three times the rate of babies of other ethnicities, with 13 out of 1,000 dying versus six per 1,000 in the Latino community, five per 1,000 Caucasian babies and three per 1,000 Asian babies.

In addition, in recent years father absence has had a detrimental impact on the quality of life for our families and our communities.

Experience has shown, and data bears out a serious need to reincorporate fathers back into families to ensure the overall physical, mental, emotional, educational, economic and social health of all family members. Also, changing demographics, including the growth of other ethnic populations in geographic areas historically served by Great Beginnings, encouraged the expansion of programs that include all ethnicities. As a result, Great beginnings has expanded its programs to serve the entire family.

Current programs include its Black Infant Health program where more than 500 African American women over 18 years of age with children 18 months old or less are empowered with the necessary tools to make informed healthcare decisions for themselves and their families.

Integrating the client, the community, and the healthcare provider, Black Infant Health seeks to improve or eradicate infant mortality, premature births, and low birth weight by encouraging early and continuous prenatal care and the embracing of healthy lifestyles. This effort is reinforced through monthly Social Support and Empowerment classes, as well as assistance in housing and job searches.

Great Beginning's Healthy Moms and Babies program mirrors Black Infant Health with the exception that mothers of all ages and ethnicities are served. Recognizing that a significant number of women who required services were not eligible under Black Infant Health, in 2008 Great Beginnings expanded under Healthy Moms and Babies to serve teen mothers, women with children up to age 5 and women of all ethnicities.

Designed to equip fathers with the necessary skills to play an active role in the care and support of their children, since 2009 Great Beginning's Fatherhood Initiative has provided individual counseling, linkages to social services, employment and health providers, educational workshops, support groups, social activities, public policy trainings and, issues-oriented town hall sessions. The Fatherhood Initiative also seeks to improve positive birth outcomes by making the father an active participant with the mother in securing appropriate healthcare before and during pregnancy, as well as after the birth of the child.
More than 200 men have participated in this initiative.

Finally, more than 200 children are provided with academic instruction, homework assistance, enrichment services and physical fitness daily through the program's Youth Education After School program in two at-risk community-based elementary schools, Ritter and 52nd Street.

"We are confident that our family-oriented approach to service is effective," commented Great Beginning's Executive Director Rae Jones. "We are glad that we are able to provide services for each family member."

For additional information on Great Beginnings for Black Babies, visit its website at www.gbbb-la.org or call (310)677-7995.