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Bethune-Cookman University School of Nursing to Host Educational Event Focusing on Black Infant Health

June 11, 2008

On June 18th, the Bethune-Cookman University School of Nursing will join with midwife Jennie Joseph to bring her campaign for healthy babies to Volusia County. The community education event will address growing concerns about black infant health in the state of Florida, specifically the high infant mortality rates in the black community.

The event will include a viewing of “Bringing’ in Da Spirit,” a documentary chronicling the history of African-American midwives and their contribution to the health of communities across the nation narrated by actress Phylicia Rashad. The film will be followed by a presentation and discussion of the state of black infant health in Central Florida.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place on Wednesday, June 18, from 1:00 to 3:00 pm at the Bethune-Cookman University School of Nursing, Lucille O’Neal Lecture Hall, 739 W. International Speedway Boulevard, Daytona Beach. Individuals interested in attending the event can call 407-654-9900 for more information.

“The continued, dire state of black infant mortality and poor perinatal outcomes is of grave concern across the nation and right here in Central Florida,” said Ms. Jennie Joseph, executive director of The Birth Place, a free-standing clinic and birthing center in Winter Garden, FL. “I was thrilled to have been invited by Dr. Alma Dixon, dean of the B-CU School of Nursing, to share this moving documentary and present the data regarding this important subject.”

“The Bethune-Cookman University School of Nursing is committed to reducing disparities in health care access and outcomes in minority communities. One of the most startling disparities is the unacceptably high rate of infant mortality in the black community,” noted Dr. Alma Dixon, dean of the School of Nursing. “Jennie Joseph has taken action and is achieving real results that save lives. We are proud to partner with her on this important educational event.”

On average, rates of black infant mortality – death of an infant within the first year of life – are twice that of white infants in the state of Florida. According to statistics compiled by Healthy Start Coalition of Flagler & Volusia Counties, Inc., the highest concentration of infant mortality has occurred in East Volusia County specifically in the 32114 zip code. Twenty one per cent of all infant deaths in Volusia county (n=205) over the last 10 years occurred in the 32114 zip code (n=44). Of these 82% (36 of 44) were black. Dixie Morgese, Executive Director of Healthy Start stated: “It should be a wake-up call to target services and improve access to health care and health information to our most vulnerable.”

In 2007, Governor Crist and the Florida Legislature approved the Black Infant Health Practice Initiative which funds pilot programs in eight counties across the state aimed at reducing infant mortality in minority communities. While Volusia County is not one of the counties selected to participate in the program, many caring agencies, such as Healthy Start, and healthcare providers are working to improve the situation regarding infant health.

The discussion event on June 18 will focus on the following areas:

• Description of the state of black infant’s health and black women’s health in Florida;
• Explanation of the links between black women’s health and the black infant mortality rate in Florida;
• Identification of the underlying problems that negatively impact the health of black women and their babies;
• Recognition of individuals and agencies that are helping to solve the problem;
• Outlining of programs that work including The JJ Way™ MCH model launched by midwife Jennie Joseph;
• Sharing of concerns, questions and ideas.

Joseph, a British-trained midwife of twenty-seven years standing, has been practicing in the Orlando area since 1995. She has developed an innovative prenatal care program called The JJ Way, which she has implemented at The Birth Place birthing center, a program supported by her own non-profit organization, Commonsense Childbirth Inc. The program’s mission is simple: to improve pregnancy and infant health outcomes by increasing ACCESS, providing EDUCATION and offering SUPPORT. A 2007 study of one hundred patients of The Birth Place, who could have been at risk for a poor pregnancy outcome, was conducted by the Winter Park Health Foundation and the Health Council of East Central Florida and showed no low birth weight or premature babies were delivered by any black or Latina women attending the clinic. The average birth weight was 7lbs 7ozs and the average gestation was 39 weeks, outcomes attributed to The JJ Way™ prenatal healthcare delivery system.

The Bethune-Cookman University School of Nursing is home to the Center for the Study of Health Disparities. The cornerstone program of the Center for the Study of Health Disparities is the creation of a nurse-managed community center called the Odessa Chambliss Wellness Center. It serves the local Daytona Beach community and is a model program that unites teaching, student educational opportunities, clinical care, community outreach, as well as faculty development and research.

Office of Institutional Advancement

Liz Poston
PH: 386-481-2950

About Bethune Cookman University:

Founded in 1904 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) today sustains her legacy of faith, scholarship and service through its relationship with the United Methodist Church and its commitment to academic excellence and civic engagement.  B-CU offers 38 degrees on its main campus and online college. Located in Daytona Beach, B-CU is one of three private, historically black colleges in the state of Florida. The institution boasts a diverse and international faculty and student body of nearly 4,000.  For more information, visit

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