Two years ago I was asked to sit on a steering committee focused on learning why Fresno County has such a high amount of preterm babies (born before 37 weeks gestation). We were also pondering why our African-American moms were losing their babies at a rate that matches those of under-developed countries in Africa.
You may wonder what preterm birth and infant mortality have to do with ENP and it’s work in our schools and neighborhoods.
How We Got Involved
One of the reasons they asked me to sit on the committee was my connections to the neighborhoods of our community. The leaders at UCSF, the lead institution that brought the initiative to Fresno County, knew that the work that needed to get done would eventually drill down to the neighborhood level. They also wanted to have the Faith community represented on their committee. I fit their needs in those areas.
Early on, ENP was able to set up several focus groups with moms that had lived experience with both preterm birth and infant mortality. It didn’t take us much work to set these groups up.
Our network in the neighborhoods makes it easy to bring individuals with various lived experiences to a learning conversation. It was a joy to hear that these women bonded as they shared their experiences. ENP continues to create these spaces for the initiative.
What We Found
As we gathered our research it wasn’t a surprise that the majority of our preterm births happen with moms that live within a two-mile radius of downtown Fresno, which of course means neighborhoods of concentrated poverty.
Yet another victim of poverty: our moms and the amazing babies they carry inside them. I have no doubt that as we learn more about these important issues, we’ll discover multiple causes that lead to these two health factors.
It’s interesting that the Bible mentions these two issues in a very important part of scripture in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 65:17-25 the prophet is giving us a clear picture of what life will be like when Jesus rules on earth. He calls it “new heavens and new earth”. As he starts to lay out this vision for us he starts with this passage:
“No longer will babies die when only a few days old.” (Isaiah 65:20)
God knows that life starts in the womb and the health of those babies is vitally important as they develop for those 40 weeks. It’s just as important that our moms are in a healthy state when they get pregnant and carry their child. It’s also crucially important that they have a supportive network of loved ones to walk alongside them during their pregnancy. Sadly that is NOT the case for many of our moms.
What We Can Do
This is where the Church can play a role. The Church can provide that support to those moms that don’t have community to love on them and encourage them when life gets challenging.
Life happens in neighborhoods. The beginning of life happens in neighborhoods. This is why ENP and our partnerships are focused on making each neighborhood and school a thriving environment for everyone. We want those beautiful babies to become successful students, young people, and adults in Every Neighborhood.
This is why ENP and our partnerships are focused on making each neighborhood and school a thriving environment for everyone. We want those beautiful babies to become successful students, young people, and adults in Every Neighborhood of Fresno.
To learn more about the Pre-Term Birth Iniative (PTBi) click here or watch the video below.
You can support work like this by donating to ENP as well. Donate Today.