March of Dimes Applauds the Restoration of Funding For Lifesaving Black Infant Health Program In CA

Program Has Historically Resulted in Improved Birth Outcomes in the African-American Community; Will Address California Public Health Crisis
June 20, 2014 - PRLog -- June 20, 2014 | Sacramento, Calif. – Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed the 2014-15 California budget which included $4 million in restored funding for the Black Infant Health Program. This funding was included in the final budget adopted by the Legislature on June 15 and will help the Black Infant Health Program reduce rates of infant death and preterm births in the African American community.

“March of Dimes has a long history of working hand in hand with the California Legislature and the Governor to ensure babies born in our state have the best chance for a healthy start in life,” said March of Dimes California Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs Justin Garrett. “Today we celebrate the restoration of funding for this vital public health program that fully addresses all the factors that impact the health of African American mothers and infants.”

March of Dimes coordinated a coalition of more than 50 support organizations to get this funding restored. The Black Infant Health Program was the top advocacy priority for the March of Dimes and the organization advocated strongly for it throughout the budget process and at the annual March of Dimes California Capitol Day event.

California is experiencing a public health crisis: black infants are twice as likely to die in the first year of life as all other infants born in California. In 1989, the state allocated funding to launch the Black Infant Health (BIH) Program in order to address this crisis, but this investment has since dwindled significantly.  With this year’s state budget, the Legislature and Governor recognized an opportunity to reinvest in this proven program and save babies’ lives.

The Black Infant Health Program aims to reduce the alarming rates of infant mortality for Black infants and fills a critical need in the state. In places like Fresno and Los Angeles Counties, this program showed impressive success. The Fresno Bee reported that between 1992 and 2001, the county's black infant mortality rate decreased from 37.1 deaths per 1,000 live births to 11.4. An evaluation conducted by First 5 LA found that compared to African Americans in Los Angeles County overall, participants in the Black Infant Health Program had lower rates of preterm births and infant mortality.

However, in the late 2000s, the program was cut drastically with $3.9 million eliminated from the state general fund for the BIH program in the 2009-10 state budget. As a result, the BIH Program now serves 6,000 fewer women and cut 55 staff throughout California. Riverside and San Bernardino Counties were forced to close their BIH programs altogether.

With the $4 million included in the state budget, the Black Infant Health Program will be able to serve more women and can lead to reductions in infant mortality, low birth weight and prematurity for Black infants. Funding for the Black Infant Health Program could potentially save $7.9 million in excess societal costs, of which $5.1 million are medical costs for the baby, because of potential reductions in preterm births based on the proven success of the program. Given that 85% of Black Infant Health participants are enrolled in Medi-Cal, investments in this program have the potential of reducing long-term Medi-Cal costs to the state.

More information about the Black Infant Health Program, March of Dimes, and the long-term costs savings associated with the program, can be found at

About March of Dimes

The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies® the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit,, and join the conversation on Facebook ( and Twitter. (

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