Posted by: acbuildingblocks | October 23, 2012

University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health receives $2.75M grant to improve birth outcomes in four U.S. cities

News from the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health – November 19, 2012

Abigail Rowe (310) 545-1391,

University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health receives $2.75M grant to improve birth outcomes in four U.S. cities

By addressing social and economic inequities, the Best Babies Zone Initiative works to give every baby born in a Best Babies Zone the best chance in life.

In recognition of National Prematurity Awareness Month, the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health announced today that it has received a $2.75M grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan to implement a three-year pilot initiative aimed at improving birth outcomes for infants in four U.S. cities.  According to the March of Dimes, every year, more than half a million babies are born prematurely in the United States. Our country’s premature birth rate has risen by 36 percent over the last 25 years. Racial disparities in premature births are a growing concern for our nation. Prematurity is one of the leading causes of infant death in the United States. The Best Babies Zone (BBZ) intends to address issues at the community level that lead to prematurity and other adverse birth outcomes.

The BBZ Initiative intends to develop, evaluate, and implement a model for cross-sector collaboration to improve birth outcomes in communities across the U.S.  By the end of the three-year grant period, four BBZ community sites will be up and running in Cincinnati, Milwaukee, New Orleans and Oakland. Ideally, the work of these sites will serve as a blueprint for site development and implementation in other cities around the U.S.  The vision of the BBZ is that all babies are born healthy, into communities that enable them to thrive and reach their full potential. This will be accomplished by:

  1. Identifying a small zone where change is greatly needed and resources are aligned in an effort to produce and measure impact;
  2. Establishing a broad collaborative to work across four key sectors – health, economics, education and community; and
  3. Cultivating a public health social movement within each city to rally community action aimed at improving the social determinants of health in each zone to improve the quality of life overall and ultimately improve birth outcomes in the zone.

We know that opportunities to be in better health must begin where we live, work, learn and play.   The BBZ will utilize specific strategies to not only improve health care access and quality in each BBZ, but also to transform educational, economic, and community systems in each of its zones. Special attention will be paid to the influence of the social determinants of health and to the importance of building environments that promote and sustain health equity.

“Infant mortality is a powerful measure of the social inequities that exists in our nation. The birth of a healthy baby suggests that a complex interplay of social, behavioral, environmental, economic and biological protective factors are working together to promote health and well-being from one generation to the next,” said Dr. Cheri Pies, clinical professor at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and principal investigator of the BBZ. “This grant from the Kellogg Foundation will enable us to work with communities to transform and realign major community systems—health, education, economic and community systems—to develop a BBZ Blueprint for Action and a BBZ Workbook that provides a step-by-step guide for becoming a BBZ.”

The UC Berkeley School of Public Health will serve as the lead agency for the BBZ Initiative.  In addition to community, academic and public health partners in the four sites at Alameda County/Oakland, Hamilton County/Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and New Orleans, a consortium of organizations will collaborate to develop and support the project.  Major national partners include the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP), CityMatCH, and National Healthy Start Association, with the evaluation design led by MassGeneral Hospital for Children.  The BBZ work will be conducted under the coordinated efforts of a team of expert consultants, as well as national and local advisory boards.
About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation:
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Mich., and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit

About the UC Berkeley School of Public Health:

The first U.S. school of public health west of the Mississippi, the UC Berkeley School of Public Health was founded in 1943. Rooted in a campus tradition of preeminent scholarship and bold research, the School of Public Health is committed to producing diverse leaders who will make this world a healthier place. The School’s faculty comprises approximately 150 investigators who are consistently noted as among the leading scholars in their respective fields. The School’s more than 12,000 graduates can be found working throughout the world, both in the public and private sectors, many of them in leadership positions. Graduates hold major positions in health departments; in hospitals; in national and international organizations; in local, state, and federal government; in voluntary health organizations; in the corporate sector; and in health care and health promotion organizations. For more information, visit


Local Press Release

OAKLAND, CA—Children in East Oakland can expect to die, on average, almost 13 years earlier than their peers who live in Piedmont, a few miles away.  The Alameda County Public Health Department has a new opportunity change children’s trajectories, by working with non-traditional partners to transform a neighborhood that has been historically disinvested into a vibrant, healthy community.  Our goal is to create the conditions necessary for children to live long and healthy lives in East Oakland in the same way they do in Piedmont.

The Public Health Department’s Building Blocks Collaborative was selected as one of
four recipients nationally of the Kellogg Foundation’s Best Babies Zone grant,
led by UC Berkeley.  The Collaborative uses a non-traditional, four sector (economics, education, health, community) approach to create lasting change.  This three-year project allows Building Blocks to create innovative approaches to make a bigger impact on children’s health by connecting health services to policy change and community empowerment. This project will be developed hand in hand with the organizations and residents who live and work in that neighborhood.

“We want all children to live long and healthy lives, regardless of where they grow up,” said ACPHD Director Anita Siegel.  “Public policies have historically deepened inequities and shaped the way these neighborhoods look. Best Babies Zone is an opportunity to demonstrate that everyone has a role in creating healthy community conditions.  Although East Oakland faces many challenges, it has many assets including engaged residents and strong local leadership.  Together we can create conditions where children can thrive.”

The Best Babies Zone will focus on the Castlemont neighborhood in East Oakland, working in partnership with local organizations to address health disparities and inequities. High poverty neighborhoods are closely tied with lower life expectancy. In Castlemont, 35% of children live under the federal poverty level, compared to 3% of children in Piedmont putting these children at an unfair disadvantage at birth.  Children in Castlemont will likely live to 73 years old instead of the 86 years of life in neighboring Piedmont.

Ideas for Best Babies Zone include: neighborhood moms clubs, family leadership academies, structures for civic engagement, and healthy corner store projects. The Zone will pilot innovative neighborhood-based approaches and follow a group of women and their children over time starting from pregnancy.

The ultimate aim is to develop Best Babies Zone into a national model.  The three other sites are Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and New Orleans.

Contacts: Jessica Luginbuhl, ACPHD

510 208-1135;,


Elizabeth Hales Carmody, East Bay Regional Parks

510 461-8106;


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