Cemala Foundation funds a collaboration of four organizations to support maternal health and reduce infant mortality in Guilford County

Local barbers and stylists trained as community health ambassadors to hold maternal health conversations and host educational opportunities for moms-to-be

GREENSBORO, NC, April 12, 2022 — The American Heart Association, Every Baby Guilford, March of Dimes, and Ready for School Ready for Life are proud to be co-recipients of a one-year $67,000 grant from the Cemala Foundation focused on cardiovascular health and maternal health to reduce infant mortality in Guilford County. In response to the high rates of infant mortality in Guilford County, Trusted Spaces, Healthy Babies is a collaboration between these four organizations to form an innovative approach that aims to address the drivers of infant mortality while empowering mothers of Color in trusted community spaces. Programs such as Trusted Spaces, Healthy Babies support mothers and contribute to raising healthy, smart babies.

“Black women face a greater risk of developing high blood pressure, having a stroke, and complications during or immediately after pregnancy.  In fact, Black women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications. Together, Trusted Spaces, Healthy Babies can help change these statistics,” said Kent Wallace-Meggs, Executive Director for the American Heart Association in the Triad.

Local barbers and stylists recently attended a maternal health training for their participation in the Trusted Spaces, Healthy Babies initiative. The four organizations presented information during this peer-to-peer educational training. A community kick-off event will be announced later this Spring.

In 2019, the American Heart Association began Trusted Spaces, working with beauty salons and barbershops across the Triad to focus on hypertension and health conversations with the Hair, Heart & Health initiative.

young child getting a hair cutNow, Trusted Spaces, Healthy Babies will be implemented across Guilford County in up to 13 barbershops and beauty salons. The initiative includes an outreach campaign with health messages for moms-to-be delivered through the trusted voices of barbers and stylists. Health and parenting resources will be introduced to the participating salons and barbershops for mothers to access, including blood pressure monitors, scales, book nooks, and more.

The American Heart Association will be managing the Trusted Spaces, Healthy Babies initiative with the salons and barbershops and focusing on hypertension and nutrition. The March of Dimes will provide curricula and training support on preconception health tips and links to resources. Ready for School Ready for Life will provide children’s books for shops to share with clients and information about the Basics Guilford to promote healthy parent-child interaction at home. Every Baby Guilford will lead the communications campaign and focus on evaluation, leadership, and coordination support for the Trusted Spaces Healthy Babies initiative. A community health worker will be hired to coordinate and provide assistance for the project based on public health awareness and project implementation.

Salons and barbershops will host events throughout the program with a focus on pre-conception, prenatal and postnatal health, and early childhood development.  Topics at these events will also include healthy cooking, health screenings, accessing government benefits, such as food and nutrition services, and information on Basics Guilford.

According to the Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services’ 2020 Maternal and Child Health Data Brief, Guilford County was one of the top five worst of 100 counties in North Carolina in infant mortality. While Guilford County experienced an 18% decrease in the overall infant mortality rate in 2020, is remains one of the highest in North Carolina. Maternal and infant health outcomes are key indicators for gauging the overall health and wellbeing of a community.

In Guilford County, Black infant mortality is impacted at higher levels than Hispanic and white infants in four of the five categories, including infant mortality rate, preterm births, low birth weight, and very low birth weight. For late or no prenatal care, Black infants were impacted by a 15% increase over white infants.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of maternal death in the U.S., or more simply put, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of new moms. It can threaten women’s heart health during pregnancy and later in life, making it important that women understand how to care for themselves and their babies. Black women face a greater risk of developing high blood pressure, having a stroke, and complications during or immediately after pregnancy. Pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. are rising at an alarming rate — and cardiovascular disease is the leading cause. According to the Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services 2019 Leading Causes of Death Data Brief, Diseases of the Heart is the second leading cause of death, accounting for 18% or all deaths in Guilford County, and stroke is the fourth leading cause of death.


About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health, and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

About Every Baby Guilford

Every Baby Guilford’s mission is to ignite and mobilize Guilford County through partnerships and unified strategies to eliminate racial disparities and prevent infant deaths.

About March of Dimes

March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies.

About Ready for School, Ready for Life

Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization working to create a connected, innovative system of care for Guilford County’s youngest children and their families. Learn more at www.GetReadyGuilford.org.