When Brandy Fultcher started to feel ill while pregnant with TrueeLove, her now-3-month-old, she was at a loss. The single mother had not had any trouble with her previous five pregnancies, and she had no family around to ask for help.
It was only after hearing about Sac Healthy Baby, a recently developed program from child-focused First 5 Sacramento, that Fultcher found out she had gestational diabetes, a problem common in African American women during pregnancy. She had been struggling to get to doctors’ appointments by bus and light rail, and was stressed out.
“(First 5) makes sure that you do what you’re supposed to do,” said Fultcher, 39. “I liked that push, that drive that they have for you to be successful in your pregnancy and for you to be a successful mom overall. You can call them for anything as far as your health and education, and they’ll really be on it. “
The campaign held an event Tuesday to draw attention to the death rate of African American children – 83 per 100,000, according to a 2014 county report, more than twice that of children in other groups. A 20-year county study released in 2012 connected the disparity to a number of causes including perinatal conditions, sleep-related deaths, abuse, neglect and homicides.
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Sac Healthy Baby launched last spring to help address those causes. The umbrella campaign connects mothers to a network of community resources for medical and prenatal care while also educating them about nutrition, safe sleep practices and more.
“We have this huge disparity in our community,” said Linda Fong-Somera, program planner with First 5 Sacramento. “We decided to allocate some funding to this effort, to see how we can be part of the solution and start to turn the tide on this issue.”
Backed by state tobacco taxes, First 5 Sacramento funds partner programs through groups that include WellSpace Health, Birth & Beyond Family Resource Centers and the Child Abuse Prevention Council. A First 5 mentor helps women navigate the resources available through these programs.
Any African American woman who is up to 35 weeks pregnant and resides in Sacramento County is eligible for Sac Healthy Baby and can stay enrolled with First 5 for 12 weeks after birth.
When Dominique Williams, 25, found out she was pregnant while studying at California State University, Sacramento, last year, she thought her life was over, she said. It was her first pregnancy, and it came as a surprise. Not knowing where to start, she did a Google search.
She ended up enrolled in the Black Mothers United program through the Center for Community Health and Wellbeing Inc., where staff helped her sign up for the federal Women, Infants and Children program, utilize her Electronic Benefit Transfer for more nutritional food, attend parenting groups and manage prenatal care for her son Jay, now 11 weeks old.
“I really appreciated having that support,” Williams said. “When you’re pregnant, it’s like your body is pregnant, your emotions are pregnant, your appetite is pregnant. You can just share that with another mom in an open space, instead of feeling like you’re being interviewed all the time.”
Helping mothers feel strong and supported is one of the biggest goals at Black Mothers United, said Kenya Fagbemi, senior personal advocate with the program. Sometimes that involves taking mothers on fun, educational field trips. Other times it means completing stress-reduction or confidence-building exercises.
“We are resilient people, but we always have to be working towards that and taking what we’ve learned from our past and combining it with what we know for our future,” she said. “It’s support that’s much-needed ... we want to see our babies thrive and be healthy.”
Call The Bee’s Sammy Caiola, (916) 321-1636.