Date of Graduation

Summer 8-27-2014

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Nursing and Health Professions

First Advisor

Dr. Courtney Keeler

Second Advisor

Dr. Kia James


Health disparities and inequities that affect the African American (includes those who consider themselves of African descent and/or Black individuals) women and their babies appear to be less dependent upon age, economic status, or education, as once considered previously. Further, it was thought that the prevalence of diseases and ill health were only attributed to poverty, lack of education/resources and social support. However, although these factors can cause the pervasiveness of disease, there are larger forces at play. Even when African American women have a pregnancy at an optimal age, are well educated, and have adequate income, poor birth outcomes still persist. It was not until more recently that researchers began to explicitly consider whether or not racial discrimination and other environmental conditions explain the health disparities among both African Americans and Whites. African American babies are twice as likely to be born with a low birth weight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces) and are more than 1 ½ times more likely to be born prematurely compared to infants of other racial or ethnic groups. Further, African American women are 4 times more likely to experience life threatening health complications from pregnancy versus their White counterparts.

In order to move towards closing the health disparity gap between African American and White mothers and their babies, the Black Infant Health Program (BIH) program was established. The BIH Program provides many services for prenatal and postpartum women including, monthly home visits from a Public Health Nurse and Community Advocate, referrals for health care and other community resources, education and support to reduce the risks of problems such as breastfeeding difficulties, cradle cap, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), networking opportunities with other families, and free classes, support groups, and workshops (i.e.: Mother’s Empowerment Group and BIH Well Program).

Correspondingly, my internship with this program focused on learning and understanding the policies and procedures for implementing group interventions and enhanced social service case management, implementing the grant writing process, researching the social determinants of health in the African American community, identifying the Santa Clara County’s community needs through program evaluation, as well as program planning and facilitating for the Mother’s Empowerment Group. Pregnant and parenting African American women benefit from the BIH program by becoming empowered to make positive choices for themselves and for their families and communities. Thus, this positive mentality will impact future generations of African American women, babies, and their families.