The County’s African American Infant and Maternal Mortality Prevention Initiative works to prevent Black maternal health disparities. (Courtesy photo)

The Los Angeles County African American Infant and Maternal Mortality Prevention Initiative (AAIMM) received the 2023 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Culture of Health Prize on Nov. 16.

The prize celebrates communities across the country where people and organizations are collaborating to build positive solutions to barriers that have created unequal opportunities for health and wellbeing.

In Los Angeles County, a movement for Black families centers joy and justice by addressing structural racism at the root of Black maternal health disparities. Because of this work, almost 1,000 Black individuals who have given birth and their families in Los Angeles have received free doula support, two culturally affirming maternity homes have been launched, and four Community Action Teams were created to activate community-level strategies, in tandem with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health efforts to shift toward antiracism in culture and policies.

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“In Los Angeles County, Black women die at three to four times the rate of women of other races, and Black babies die at two to three times the rate of infants of any other race before their first birthday,” said Barbara Ferrer, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.Ed., director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

“This disproportionality in deaths among Black women and Black babies is the result of longstanding unjust policies and practices that leave Black and Brown communities without the resources and power needed for individual and community well-being.

“AAIMM brings together residents and community leaders to support healthy births for Black families and through their advocacy and leadership, they are addressing the root causes of health inequities. I am grateful that this significant work has been recognized by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.”

AAIMM is a coalition led by community members with lived experience in partnership with the Department of Public Health, First 5 LA, community organizations, health care providers, funders, and other County departments.  The coalition’s purpose is to address the unacceptably high rates of Black infant and maternal deaths countywide and ensure healthy births for Black families in L.A. County.

“The work of our current and past prize winners highlights the real staying power of community-born solutions, and their success inspires greater collaboration across public and private sectors,” said Julie Morita, MD, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation executive vice president.

“This year’s winners demonstrate what’s possible when we work in partnership and ensure that community members with lived experience take the lead to identify and dismantle barriers to health and wellbeing.”

As a prize winner, AAIMM will receive $250,000, national and local promotion of community’s stories to inspire others, and other opportunities to expand networks and accelerate progress toward building a healthy community.

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