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Community Action Network

Infant mortality refers to the death of a baby before his or her first birthday and has tragic implications for the affected family, friends, and community. In Boston and across the U.S., Black families have consistently experienced higher rates of infant mortality than White families.

Health inequities occur when unfair social policies and practices deny groups of individuals the opportunity for optimal health, either through a lack of resources that promote health or through increased exposure to risk factors for disease. Health inequities are differences in health outcomes that are avoidable, unfair, and unjust. When these differences occur because of someone's race or ethnicity, they are called racial inequities.

While progress has been made in Boston, there is still more work to be done to make sure all babies, regardless of their race or ethnicity, have a healthy start.



The Community Action Network, or CAN for short, is a group of community residents, representatives from community-based organizations, healthcare, government, and other groups that are working together to reduce racial inequities in infant mortality and poor birth outcomes in Boston through policy and community level changes. 


As a CAN, we envision the city of Boston to be a place where everybody, regardless of race or ethnicity, has an equal opportunity to have healthy, happy babies and families, and strong, stable communities.

Our Mission is to eliminate racial and ethnic inequities in infant mortality and poor birth outcomes by mobilizing the community to do outreach, education, and policy change.

Anyone interested can join CAN! CAN is an opportunity to network, make a positive impact, take on leadership roles, participate in advocacy activities, gain and practice new skills, and much more!

The CAN meets quarterly in a community meeting space. In between these large CAN meetings, we also have workgroups that meet to strategize and plan activities to move the work forward.

The CAN is currently working on two focus areas:

  • Support the legislation to help communities in Massachusetts establish a​​ ​Fetal and Infant Mortality Review (FIMR)​.
  • Promoting preconception health, the health of a woman during her reproductive years, ​which are the years she can have a child. ​​

​Click on the pink banner below to sign up to learn more about CAN!


Click here for more information on the virtual meetings.

What's Fetal and Infant Mortality Review (FIMR)? 

FIMR is a community-based review process that brings together key members of the community to review information from individual cases of fetal and infant death to determine if there are system problems or gaps that contribute to these deaths, develop recommendations for change, and assist in the implementation of change. Information from the FIMR process can help communities better understand root causes of infant health inequities so they can use resources to more effectively impact the problem.​

To learn more about the FIMR process, check out the national FIMR website at​ ​

What's CAN doing around FIMR?

The Boston Public Health Commission has worked with legislators to file H.2312/H.2371/S.1474, An Act relative to conducting fetal and infant mortality review, which if passed, would require the state health department to provide communities in Massachusetts with the necessary data they need to start a FIMR process in their community.

On May 3, 2021, CAN members testified in support of the bill at a hearing held by the Joint Committee on Public Health.

We are continuing to work on activities to support the bill and highlight the importance of having FIMR in our community. If you are interested in learning more about the bill or would like to get involved, please click on the pink banner "Join the CAN Team" to sign up and learn more!

Below are some materials The Boston Healthy Start Initiative's Community Action Network (CAN) that convenes at the Boston Public Health Commission has developed to provide more information about FIMR and the bill:

Fetal and Infant Mortality Review (FIMR) Fact Sheet

If you are interested in learning more about the National Healthy Start program, National FIMR, or health inequities, check out the links below:


What is preconception health?

Preconception health is the health of a woman during her reproductive years, ​which are the years she can have a child. A woman's health during the preconception period is important for a healthy pregnancy. 

An important component of preconception health is that if a woman does not want to become pregnant, she has access to effective birth control to prevent unintended pregnancy.

Almost 51% of all pregnancies are unintended in the United States. Having an unintended pregnancy puts both mothers and babies at an increased risk including:

  • Health problems for both mother and infant
  • Preterm birth, low birth weight, increased infant mortality
  • Delayed prenatal care
  • Increased depression, anxiety and physical abuse for mother

What's CAN doing around preconception health?

CAN is currently working on efforts to raise awareness about preconception health through community outreach. If you are interested in learning more about our work or would like to get involved, please click on the pink banner titled "Join the CAN Team" to sign up and learn more!

If you are interested in learning more about preconception health, check out the links below:

One Key Question

  (Services available in multiple languages)​

If you would like more information about the ​free programs and services that serve pregnant and parenting families with children including fathers that we offer through the Boston Public Health Commission, please check out the links below:​

Boston Healthy Start Initiative 

BHSI is a free and voluntary program open to women living in Boston who are pregnant or parenting children up to the age of 2 and identify as Black or Latina. Women who enroll in BHSI have the opportunity to work one on one with staff called 'Family Partners' who support them to have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.   ​

Father Friendly Initiative 

Father Friendly is a free program that provides individualized case management services and educational group sessions that promote father involvement and family engagement.

Healthy Baby Healthy Child 

Healthy Baby Healthy Child is a free home visiting program for pregnant and parenting families with a child under the age of 5 residing in Boston.

Healthy Start in Housing 

HSiH is a program that assists with placing pregnant women and parenting families into secure housing.

Welcome Family 

Welcome Family is a free one-time visit available to new mothers and her newborn. ​​

CAN is supported through the Boston Healthy Start Initiative which is funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Boston Public Health Commission.
Boston Public Health Commission
1010 Massachusetts Ave, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02118.
Phone:(617) 534-5395 Email: