Over the last three years, BUILD awardees have been working toward addressing social determinants of health and advancing health equity in their communities. To commemorate the end of our third cohort and spotlight their impactful work, we will be sharing each of our 18 communities’ stories — highlighting the partners’ collaborative approach to creating meaningful change in their community, the challenges they faced, and the transformative impact of these efforts for residents.

In New Orleans, the BUILD maternal health collaborative has emerged to counter the devastating statistics surrounding Black maternal and infant care throughout the U.S.: The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed countries. Throughout New Orleans, like the rest of the U.S., Black mothers are up to three times more likely than white mothers to give birth to low birth weight babies and two times more likely than white mothers to experience preterm deliveries and the death of a child during its first year. Black women are four times more likely than white women to experience a pregnancy-related death.3 With 99 percent of Columbia Parc’s residents identifying as Black or African American, these data points are better understood not as troubling statistics, but as neighborhood tragedies.

To create supportive environments for breastfeeding families, it was essential for BUILD Columbia Parc to link the community to clinics—including LCMC Health and its network of five large area hospitals—deliberately around shared objectives. Shared objectives and more formal relationships have led to referrals, which, in turn, result in more trusting relationships between residents and perinatal health providers. Ultimately, links, relationships, and trust yield to increased capacity of Black parents and families to advocate for themselves and, collectively, on behalf of Black mothers. The project has mobilized doulas, midwives, obstetricians, paraprofessionals, and families through continuing education classes, Grand Rounds (a quarterly review by perinatal health providers of a real lactation case study, with a different theme each time), Perinatal Health Advocates (PHA) training participation, and community lactation and parenting workshops. They’ve also advocated for policy change to make these shifts sustainable.

Over the past three years, the New Orleans BUILD partnership has:

  • Supported 3,177 participants throughout the program;
  • Been recognized in other parts of the country for their emergency preparedness model and practice;
  • Shipped 450 emergency infant feeding kids to other counties to be distributed to families before and after emergencies;
  • And supported education efforts on 12+ related policy initiatives.

For new parents, our services may be baby-focused, but we are also there for and building confidence in moms and other caregivers, and that makes all the difference.—Jade George, Perinatal Health Advocate

Read more about BUILD Columbia Parc’s impact in New Orleans and stay tuned monthly for more BUILD community stories!