Targeting the women of Park Heights, Upton/Druid Heights and Patterson Park North and East, B’More Fit for Healthy Babies has partnered with local fitness centers, area hospitals and Weight Watchers to ensure healthy pregnancies for women across the city.

With nearly 40 percent of all Baltimore City women of childbearing age between 18 to 44 weighing in as obese, the program, which will be open for enrollment starting Jan. 23, will help pregnant women lose the unhealthy pounds that not only overstress the mother, but endanger the life of the unborn child as well. Since implementing the program in 2009, Baltimore’s infant mortality rate has dropped 19 percent.

With a goal of reducing infant mortality, creating lasting ties between health organizations and the community, and offering adequate medical and social services, B’More Fit for Healthy Babies will offer programming both in English and Spanish.

“The ultimate goal is for this to continue and to replicate in other cities,” said Robin Truiett-Theodorson, project coordinator for the FLBC.

A secondary program based on B’More for Healthy Babies (BHB), B’More Fit for Healthy Babies is an initiative run by the Family League of Baltimore City (FLBC). Securing a five year planning grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Women’s Health (OWH), the program will be infused with $300,000 annually until 2016. During that time, 1,400 women in Baltimore City will benefit from the program.

“When you think about it, it’s a small amount of money when you compare it to one major diabetic episode,” said Kevin M. Keegan, president and CEO of the FLBC.

As Weight Watchers groups are scarcely found in low-income communities, B’More Fit for Healthy Babies offers the program free of charge. Complete with transportation to and from meetings and exercise sessions sponsored by Brick Bodies and local YMCAs, women can enjoy Zumba, aerobics and time fitness training with professional trainers. Child care is also offered for women with children so they can focus on getting their bodies healthy with limited distraction.

“It really is a great experience to come together with a group of other women every week and have that support system. This is an effective evidence based intervention program that is worth investment in,” said Gena O’Keefe, director of Healthy Community Initiatives for the (FLBC). “In addition to all the clear benefits for participants, there is a real benefit for collaborating partners,” said O’Keefe. The program will bring together 30 organizations that share the goal of better pregnancies and healthier babies, that in turn grow into the future citizens that make up the communities of Baltimore City.

Aside from focusing on physical health, weekly sessions focusing on mental health will also be offered for postpartum women, with training on continued weight loss strategies and safe parenting.

One of 16 programs selected by the OWH, B’More Fit for Healthy Babies’ collaboration with Weight Watchers was noted among 137 programs that applied from across the country. A grant of $90,000 was also given by the Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Foundation to help at-risk women and their babies make a safer, healthier and overall more enjoyable journey to delivery.

B’More Fit for Healthy Babies will run on a first come first serve basis until all slots have been filled. As women graduate from the program, employment opportunities will be offered by Weight Watchers, where the women will mentor new women coming into the program.

For more information please visit www.healthybabiesbaltimore.com or contact DRUM for Healthy Families at 410.255.3555

Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer