Today, Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced that the Boston Housing Authority and the Boston Public Health Commission have joined together to launch Healthy Start in Housing, an initiative that will lessen the stress on pregnant women who are at risk of having an adverse birth outcome by providing them with housing, counseling, and other needed support. BHA will initially make 75 housing units available for the program, while BPHC will provide case management to help these women manage the combined demands of tenancy and infant care while meeting their own health needs and those of their children. This is the first coordinated initiative of its kind in the country.
The mayor also announced the Boston Task Force on Improved Perinatal Clinical Care, a joint effort of leading doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals who will identify and promote best practices in clinical care for protecting infant health. By the end of the year, the task force will produce a best-practices document, the Boston Compact on Perinatal Clinical Care, that will be shared among partner hospitals and clinical sites.
Together, these two initiatives will improve infant health and combat longstanding racial disparities in birth weight and infant mortality rates among Boston women, disparities that are directly linked to factors like stress, housing insecurity, and inadequate prenatal care.
“It is simply not acceptable that black and Latino babies born in Boston are more likely to be born at a low birth weight and have lower rates of survival than white babies,” said Mayor Menino. “These two initiatives will help level the playing field and ensure that all children born in this city have a healthy start.”
“Stable housing and quality perinatal care are vital to helping reduce birth disparities,” said BPHC Executive Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer. “Housing insecurity is the first thing women report as a source of worry and distress during pregnancy. That stress translates into higher rates of low birth weight and preterm birth, and ultimately into the disparities we see in infant health and survival. A safe, secure home is the best prescription a city can provide to assure healthy pregnancy.”