Byrd Barr Place’s community-led efforts to improve pregnancy care and health inequities for Black Washingtonians

Cambia Health Foundation supported Byrd Barr Place’s recent initiatives as part of our Resilient Children and Families funding program.

Byrd Barr Place’s community-led efforts to improve pregnancy care and health inequities for Black Washingtonians
Black Maternal Health Week (April 11 to 17) is a campaign founded by Black Mamas Matter Alliance to build awareness, activism and community-building to amplify the voices, perspectives and lived experiences of Black Mamas and birthing people. In support of this important work, Cambia Health Foundation is featuring Byrd Barr Place in our latest blog post, who we’ve been honored to support and partner with over the years. This includes financial support for Byrd Barr Place’s recent initiative as part of the Foundation’s Resilient Children and Families funding program.
As a nonprofit born during the Civils Rights Era with deep local roots, Byrd Barr Place has worked tirelessly for decades to build an equitable future for all Washingtonians. The organization was first formed in 1964 as the Central Area Motivation Project (CAMP) by grassroots organizers in Seattle’s Central District, who joined together to build economic mobility and civic engagement with the Black community.

Today, Byrd Barr Place’s commitment to helping people help themselves through direct services, community action and advocacy remains strong. This includes mobilizing communities to dismantle poverty and racism through public dialogue and community-driven policy solutions – ensuring every one of us has the opportunity to live a healthy, prosperous life.

In 2015, Byrd Barr Place, in collaboration with the African American Leadership Forum-Seattle and the Washington State Commission on African American Affairs, published the first in a series of reports called Creating an Equitable Future for Washington State. The initial report focused on economic, political and social barriers to progress for Black Washingtonians.

Among the important issues included in the report, disparities in perinatal care rose up as a key focus for achieving health equity. The report found that, compared to their peers in Washington, Black people are more likely to be born at a low birth rate, as well as other health disparities. Many studies have been published before and after 2015 that document perinatal health inequities for Black pregnant and birthing people, locally and nationally. Byrd Barr Place, however, understood that few studies have documented the contributing factors to these inequities – including the experiences and perspectives of Black pregnant and birthing people receiving reproductive and perinatal health care. There is also a lack of engagement and solutions that center the voices of those most impacted by these persistent disparities.

In response, Byrd Barr Place started developing a partnership of Black-serving agencies to work together collectively toward a better future. Originally this work was planned to start in 2019 following the original report series, but Byrd Barr Place had to shift their focus and resources in response to COVID-19 and to meet urgent community needs.

As recovery from the pandemic continues, today Byrd Barr Place is refocused on the work ahead – to document the drivers of perinatal health outcomes among Black pregnant or birthing people in Washington State. This includes identifying pathways to disrupt intergenerational cycles of health inequity in low birth weight, infant mortality, and maternal morbidity and mortality with a focus on interventions aimed at decreasing rates among Black infants. Information and learnings will be shared with health systems and providers to help create systemic changes for more equitable health care.
Byrd Barr Place is currently exploring community partnerships and resources to move this critical work forward. This includes partnering with Cardea, a women-of-color-led organization whose mission is to address complex program, policy and systems issues by co-creating solutions that center community strengths and wisdom. Cambia Health Foundation is honored to be one of many supporters of Byrd Barr Place.

Learn more at where you can also read their recent article on Black maternal health called Black Birth Is Sacred. There’s also information about Byrd Barr Place's recent partnership with the Black Future Co-op Fund to produce an update of the initial Creating an Equitable Washington report. This new report, Black Well-being: Moving Toward Solutions Together, is grounded in community wisdom (about 1,000 Black voices contributed through focus groups, a statewide survey, five panel conversations, and a statewide gathering) and outlines community-identified approaches in civic engagement, education, economic mobility, public safety, and health to address systemic barriers and manifest well-being statewide.