Best Babies Zone Strives for All Babies to Be Born Healthy

By Erin Bonzon
Associate Director, Women’s and Infant Health, AMCHP

The Best Babies Zone (BBZ) Initiative is an innovative, multi-sector approach to reducing infant mortality and racial disparities in birth outcomes and improving birth and health outcomes by mobilizing communities to address the social determinants that affect health. The BBZ vision is that all babies are born healthy, in communities that enable them to thrive and reach their full potential. The uniqueness of this national initiative lies in the fact that not only is the approach zonal, but it is comprehensive – addressing four critical sectors – economics, education, health and community – in order to strengthen environments that support better and healthier outcomes. BBZ is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and is being implemented in four cities – Cincinnati, Ohio; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Oakland, California.

BBZ employs three primary strategies to produce measurable outcomes:

  1. A small zone is selected where change is greatly needed and resources are aligned to produce and measure impact
  2. A broad collaborative is formed to work across four sectors (health, economics, education and community) to achieve collective impact
  3. A social movement is cultivated within the city to do whatever it takes to improve birth outcomes in the zone

A consortium of partners has mobilized to support the BBZ Initiative, develop a blueprint and strategies, evaluate its impact, carry out the work in the four cities, and plan for its future growth. The BBZ National Leadership Team is directed by Cheri Pies of the University of California at Berkeley, who serves as the principal investigator for the initiative. The broader BBZ team includes partners from all four of the BBZ cities, AMCHP, CityMatCH and the National Healthy Start Association. These organizations will develop community assessment guidelines, create workbooks to assist with future dissemination of the initiative and establish learning communities for the BBZ participating sites. The BBZ National Leadership Team also includes Milton Kotelchuck (evaluation), Mario Drummonds (development and sustainability), Lorraine Lathen (media and marketing strategy) and Amy Fine (consultant on place-based efforts and policy).

BBZ was awarded its initial three-year funding this spring by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and is currently working with three of the four initial BBZ sites to transition from the planning phase to community assessments, zonal selection and initiative implementation. The fourth site, Milwaukee, is currently in a pre-planning phase and will be integrated into the initiative during the second and third grant years.

For more information about Best Babies Zone, contact:

Abigail Rowe, MSW, MPH
Project Coordinator, Best Babies Zone
UC Berkeley School of Public Health