Best Babies Zone Initiative moves to University of Nebraska

April 26, 2019

The Best Babies Zone (BBZ) Initiative is moving to CityMatCH at the University of Nebraska Medical Center this May after flourishing at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health since its founding in 2012. The BBZ Initiative is a place-based, multi-site, multi-sector approach to reducing disparities in infant mortality and birth outcomes by mobilizing community residents and organizational partners to address the social and economic determinants of health.

This institutional shift was prompted by the upcoming retirement of BBZ Initiative Principal

Investigator and Clinical Professor at the School of Public Health, Cheri Pies. A pioneering thought leader in the field of maternal and child health, Pies has led the initiative at Berkeley for seven years.

Clinical interventions have not significantly reduced the gap of infant mortality rates between African American and white babies. Economic stability, educational opportunity, chronic exposure to stress, and racism all play a critical role in perpetuating this inequity. The BBZ approach takes each of these factors into account to address root causes and structural factors that contribute to racial inequities in infant mortality. The initiative has grown from three to nine zones under Pies’ leadership, who hopes the move will continue this expansion to have greater impact.

“CityMatCH is poised to carry on the legacy of the BBZ Initiative. They share our commitment to addressing root causes of birth outcome inequities and have a long history as one of our national advisory partners,” said Pies. “We established the BBZ Initiative in 2012 in three pilot communities with the goals of addressing a range of social determinants of health identified by community residents in each community and ensuring that every baby born in those communities reaches their full potential. Seven years later, there are now nine Best Babies Zones across the country, each engaged in their own unique approach that constitutes the vital work of reducing racial inequities in birth outcomes. I am humbled by the progress that has taken place and am excited for the future of BBZ at CityMatCH.”

CityMatCH has received a $1.4 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to continue to spread the neighborhood-based, community-driven approach of BBZ under a new initiative—the Birth Equity Strategies Together (BEST) Cities Project. Chad Abresch, executive director of CityMatCH, will serve as the next Principal Investigator of the project.

“Speaking on behalf of the staff and board, we are excited and honored to welcome the BBZ Initiative to CityMatCH,” said Abresch. “We look forward to deepening our relationship with the local BBZ teams and bringing the BBZ approach to more communities across the country.”