The Black Maternal and Child Health Alliance was recently announced as a partnership between the Dane County Health Council and the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness as a response to issues seen in Dane County with regards to the mortality rate of Black babies. 

The Alliance is co-chaired by Dr. Tiffany Green and Chief Programs Officer for the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness Alia Stevenson.

Stevenson said this alliance will be led by 22 powerful Black women with a diverse array of skills, abilities, personal experiences and expertise. Stevenson said they came together because they saw a need in Dane County for support for Black women.

The initiative came from the Saving Our Babies Report, Stevenson said.

“We pulled together an advisory group to create a charter for this group,” Stevenson said. “To identify the purpose, to identify our mission, to identify our values, to identify our relationship with the Dane County Health Council … our goal largely is to reduce the low body weight percentage of Black women births in Dane County.”

Stevenson said Wisconsin is currently first in the nation for Black infant mortality, and Black babies are two times more likely to be born with a low weight. According to the Saving Our Babies report, the Black infant mortality rate was as high as 15.4 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in Dane County from 2015 to 2017.

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In an email, Founding CEO and President of the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness Lisa Peyton-Caire said the current state of Black maternal and child health needs to be addressed.

“This present state of Black maternal and child health in our county and State is one of the most significant and urgent health challenges we face,” Peyton-Caire said. “This engagement effort was designed to uncover viable, sustainable and community-driven solutions that will turn the tide towards healthier birth outcomes for Black women and their babies.”

Community Impact at United Way of Dane County Director Gabe Doyle said the Saving Our Babies report drew attention to the racial disparities found in Wisconsin and inspired the Dane County Health Council to discuss ways to provide better healthcare for Black people. 

Peyton-Caire said the Alliance was formed with the entire community in mind, and is part of a larger strategy led by the Dane County Health Council, The Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness and a network of community and neighborhood-based partners. 

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“The Alliance represents part of a long-range set of plans and solutions that have been set in motion and which we are all committed to,” Peyton-Caire said. “As the group grows as an independent entity, we are certain that they will garner even more support and influence.”

Peyton-Caire said the alliance can be narrowed down to five goals, namely serving the community by organizing cultural efforts to support the health of Black people, being a source of information concerning Black maternal and child health, advocating to improve the well-being of Black mothers, engaging as a partner for the Dane County Health Council and providing health support for Black families.

They plan on working with the Health Council to expand efforts to support Black mothers and analyze social determinants such as housing, employment, healthcare, bias and policies that may affect health concerns and try to solve these issues.

Alliance member and Project Manager at United Way Ariel Robbins said she personally saw the passion and collectiveness of the community coming together to form this organization.

Robbins said she feels the health council is being very intentional about their actions.

“It’s just very intentional, Dane County makes sure to report all the effort back to the community — just the fact that people took time out of their day to speak to the health systems is really perfecting that feedback loop and [has] corrected some of the longstanding issues,” Robbins said. “Just taking all of that information and fixing a wrong.”

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Robbins said the Black Maternal and Child Health Alliance is very focused on addressing and fixing wrongs in the community and is determined to hear the voices of the people.

But the first step is awareness. Stevenson said it is key that in order to solve these issues, people must be aware of these issues. 

“Madison has been noted as one of the best places to live by a number of national reports … however … we have Black women and Black babies living in dire circumstances,” Stevenson said. “And people don’t know, so it’s our job to call out these disturbing problems, and who’s thriving and who’s surviving and that is the first step to co-creating solutions.”