The Best Babies Zone (BBZ) Initiative, launched in 2012 with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is a place-based, multi-site, multi-sector approach to reducing disparities in infant mortality and birth outcomes. Through community mobilization and local partnerships, the Initiative aims to increase health equity by supporting solutions driven by resident needs in neighborhoods most impacted by disparities in birth outcomes. The BBZ Initiative began with three pilot Zones, now known as Cohort 1: Castlemont, Oakland; Hollygrove, New Orleans; and Price Hill, Cincinnati. Over the last two years, the Initiative brought on six new Zones across the United States (Cohorts 2 and 3) and Initiative leadership, based at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health (UCB), transitioned to a Technical Assistance Center focused on providing a cross-Zone learning community, resources and information, and evaluation support.
As part of the transition to a Technical Assistance Center in 2017, BBZ staff at UCB–referred to throughout this report as BBZ National–continued to develop a suite of tools and best practices to support the work of Zones as well as other organizations engaged in maternal and child health birth equity work. The most comprehensive resource developed to date is the Best Babies Zone Basics step-by-step guide, which BBZ National published in December 2017. BBZ Basics is a guide for organizations in public health as well as other sectors to use when exploring or beginning to implement a place-based, multi-sector, community-driven approach to reducing racial inequities in infant mortality. It includes support for each phase of the work, including planning, engaging residents, building a multi-sector collaborative, and establishing a Zone strategy.
Year six of the BBZ evaluation continued to focus on providing ongoing, developmental learning, demonstrating outcomes, and supporting the internal evaluation capacity of BBZ National. Key areas of emphasis in 2017 included assessing the TA provided to new Zones, and learning about ongoing work in pilot Zones. In addition, the evaluation team provided TA to new Zones to support local, Zone-specific evaluation activities, and continued to support efforts in Cohort 1 Zones when needed. In a new approach to reporting, the Harder+Company evaluation team provided rapid feedback memos throughout the year to support BBZ National in evaluating TA support and determining where additional support was needed.