Minnesota is among states with the lowest rates for prematurity, low birth weight, and infant mortality. However, Minnesota has some of the nation’s highest disparities for these outcomes for African Americans and American Indians, in comparison to Whites.
Low birth weight is noted when the weight of a live born infant is less than 2500 grams (about 5.5 pounds). Low birth weight is often linked to prematurity (babies that are born too early) and may also be due to intrauterine growth restriction (babies that are small for their gestational age). Infants with low birth weight are at substantially higher risk of death in their first year (infant mortality).
Low birth weight is influenced by nutrition, environmental and behavioral stressors, and receipt of quality prenatal care. Not all of the causes of low birth weight are understood, but it is well accepted that addressing the psychosocial needs of women during pregnancy (especially historical trauma), and providing early access to quality prenatal care, will reduce risk for low birth weight.
In 2015, the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) sponsored legislation to improve birth outcomes for high risk women, by addressing the two largest risks to healthy births—low birth weight and psychosocial exposure. As enacted, the legislation contains specific recommendations about identifying target populations in geographic areas where adverse birth outcomes are highest. For African Americans in the Twin Cities, the low birth weight target areas are Ramsey County, and Hennepin County excluding Edina, Bloomington, and Richfield.
The Advisory Council serves as a critical community voice for prenatal African American maternal and child health in the Twin Cities for the Minnesota Department of Human Services ICHRP Initiative. Members of the Council share their gifts in service to the ICHRP Initiative by providing their professional expertise; their knowledge of prenatal African American maternal and child health issues; their knowledge of the African American community; and their connections to local, national or international resources and colleagues. The Advisory Council has no governing function within DHS.
The Advisory Council is comprised of volunteers, including prenatal care clinicians, behavioral health technicians, community-based organizations and social service staff, public health nurses and chemical health treatment programs and services staff. It meets monthly and meetings last approximately 2 hours. Members are self-selected or recommended by others. The Advisory Council has co-chairs, selected by Council members. The Advisory Council meets as a body and may, on occasion, form committees to explore issues in greater detail for consideration by the full Advisory Council. Recommendations are forwarded to the ICHRP Initiative leaders.
- Carolyn Brown, Co-Director, Community Stabilization Project
- Clarence Jones, Community Health Consultant
- Char Lankfard, Doula, Southside Community Health Services
- Tamiko Ralston, St Paul-Ramsey County Public Health, Family Division – MCH Outreach
- Akhmiri Sekhr-Ra, Health Systems Navigator, Certified Prenatal Educator, Cultural Wellness Center
- Clara Sharp, Ahavah Birthworks, Doula Services
- Sam Simmons, Simmons Consulting
- Hazel B. Tanner, MN Black Nurses Association
- Naomi, Terlouw, Executive Director, North Side Pregnancy Options
Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) Staff
- Ruthie Dallas, Community Supports Administration, DHS
- Fritz Ohnsorg, Policy Specialist, DHS
- Antonia WiIlcoxin, Director of Community Relations, DHS
- Minnesota Community Care
- NorthPoint Health and Wellness, Inc.
- African American Babies Coalition and Projects
- Community Voices and Solutions (CVAS)
- Ramsey County Birth Equity Community Council (BECC)
- Agencies and agency staff committed to building a stronger Integrated Care for High Risk Pregnancies system of care