Montgomery County event focuses on educating Black women about healthy births

Every baby deserves to be born healthy.

That was the message at the "Right from the Start" event held Saturday morning at the White Oak Community Recreation Center in Silver Spring. The event put together by the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services focused on education when it comes to reducing health disparities faced by Black mothers, especially those of child bearing age.

"The reason for that is, the number of infants that die before their first birthday, is higher among this group of women," explained Angeline Bell with the program.

"We want to teach them how to advocate for themselves as in how to speak to the doctor when the doctors don’t listen to them."

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Right from the Start is co-sponsored by the African American Health Program (AAHP), Early Child Services, and the Babies Born Healthy Program (BBH). One program works to eliminate health disparities and improve the life-span of those who are African American or of African descent. The other seeks to decrease disparities and reduce infant mortality among African American women.

"I feel like Black women don’t have the resources to educate ourselves on early development as well as like being pregnant and this program itself has taught me so much about breast feeding and also postpartum and mental health so for me that has been super helpful," said Toni Wilmot a first time, mom-to-be in Silver Spring.

According to the county health department, in 2021, Black and African American women accounted for 43 percent of fetal and infant losses, yet made up approximately 20 percent of births. These losses are still prevalent, accounting for one-third or more of them in the county.

"Each baby that is born too early, born before 38 weeks of pregnancy, may spend a lot time in the NICU and it can cost the county and the state a lot of money," said Bell, "over $65,000 per baby that is in the NICU."

Organizers spearheading the initiative hope, their message of self advocacy especially when it comes to pregnancy and a healthy birth, spreads far and wide.

"We want them to tell their daughters, their friends, their sisters, to deal with those chronic illnesses before you get pregnant," Bell continued.

"Make sure you speak up and ask questions."

"I want people to understand how important community is and coming together," said Wilmot.

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"Finding community with other pregnant women has helped me in my journey because sometimes it can really feel alone."

The next event being planned is the Black breastfeeding celebration happening August 27 at the Silver Spring Health Center.