Fresno County Preterm Birth Initiative Celebrates Five Years of Success, Transitions Collective Impact Operations to Community Partners

After five years of building strong community coalitions to address the preterm birth epidemic, the Fresno County Preterm Birth Initiative (Fresno PTBI) has evolved its collective impact operations to a virtual model, whereby its activities will be managed by a network of Fresno community-based organizations.

When the Fresno PTBI work began in late 2014, out of every 10 babies in Fresno County were born prematurely. These rates were among the highest in the nation. The Fresno County initiative goal was to reduce preterm birth rates from 10.3 percent to 7 percent by 2025, an overall reduction of more than one-third.

With a partnership and investment from the University of California San Francisco California Preterm Birth Initiative (UCSF PTBI-CA), Fresno PTBI implemented workgroups to address three priority areas that span the reproductive life course and address the social and environmental factors that drive preterm birth risk: health and education before pregnancy, care and support during pregnancy and coordination of care before, during and after pregnancy. As of 2018, Fresno County has seen an 8.4 percent reduction in preterm birth rates.

“The Fresno County initiative was able to successfully accomplish many of our goals within the last five years,” said Sandra Flores, program director of the Fresno County Preterm Birth Initiative. “Although there will be a shift in the work, our community partners are dedicated to building on the successes of the initiative and will continue to raise awareness and work towards reducing preterm birth in Fresno County.”    

Fresno State has served as the backbone of the initiative for the past five years. Although UCSF’s planned five-year funding period for this backbone ended on July 31st, the work will transition to community partners and Fresno State, which will continue to build on their shared achievements. Fresno State will take a substantial role in the transition, with the Central Valley Health Policy Institute leading the shared measures and policy-related work. 

In September, the Institute will begin collaborative work with UCSF PTBi-CA on a $5.6 million initiative to research the effectiveness of group prenatal care for low-income women in Fresno County. Funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), the study will compare two approaches to enhanced prenatal care to improve maternal and child health in the Central Valley to see which is most effective at reducing rates of preterm birth, decreasing depression and anxiety and increasing satisfaction with care. 

The enhanced group prenatal program to be compared is Glow! – a strategy incubated through the Fresno PTBI and implemented by First 5 Fresno County in partnership with the Central Valley Health Policy Institute and UCSF. 

UCSF PTBi-CA will continue to support several other Fresno-based research projects and engage Fresno partners to identify community-driven solutions to close the gap between Black and white birth outcomes – particularly in West Fresno, where infant mortality and preterm birth rates are the highest in the County, and African American residents are overwhelmingly affected.

The above article includes excerpts from a Fresno State press release. Please read the full press release to learn more about Fresno PTBI’s legacy, including several stories about the many Fresno families helped by the Initiative.