RACINE - Want to have a healthy baby? Be a healthy woman.
A new program focused on helping black women have healthy babies, kicked off at the Martin Luther King Center, 1134 Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, on Wednesday. Journey of a Lifetime: Healthy Babies through Healthy Families will provide black women and their families information and strategies for reducing the stress that may lead to poor birth outcomes. Research suggests that stress can cause women to have babies too early and too small.
In Wisconsin, black babies are 3 1/2 times more likely to die than white babies, said state Secretary of Health Services Karen Timberlake.
"We need to reach out to women, to men, to health care providers, to employers, to help women be healthy and maintain their health so if they choose to get pregnant they can have healthy babies," Timberlake said.
Prematurity and low birth weight are the most common reasons a baby dies in infancy, Timberlake said, and "the major cause of babies being born too soon or too small is stress. It's the stress of living as an African American woman."
The Journey of a Lifetime materials are designed to reach out to that population in particular, to help them get healthy, stay healthy, and learn new ways to deal with stress. The campaign was developed after a year of focus group research and discussions with community leaders, health care providers and black mothers, fathers and grandmothers in Southeastern and Southern Wisconsin.
One of the things the Journey of a Lifetime program promotes is support groups, like the support circles for mothers and fathers that were held in Racine earlier this year. The men and women who participated in the circles say they learned a lot about living healthier lives, and how to get help when they need it.
Tiniesha Griffin, of Racine, participated in the circles with her partner, Donnell Pannell. They have a 2-year-old daughter, Taylor Pannell. Griffin said the tools she learned in the support circle have helped her be a better person and a better parent.
"I'm eating better, thinking better, and a lot calmer," she said. "People have been through the predicaments I've been through. (Talking to them) took a heavy load off me."
Christine Golden and Daryl Carter worked with the support circles in Racine. They said the women and men who participated were interested and engaged.
"It was a humbling experience," Carter said.
He described the experience Wednesday afternoon, at a Wingspread event for people who worked on creating the campaign.
"People are used to seeing African-American men at the King Center, but sitting in a circle, talking about serious issues, they're not used to seeing that," he said.
Golden had a similar experience with the women, she said Wednesday afternoon.
"Working with the young ladies was amazing," Golden said. "They were so thirsty for knowledge that would help them have healthy babies and healthy families."