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Black Infant Mortality: The Solution Lies Within

Infant Mortality is measured by the number of babies born that do not live to their first birthday. In Ohio this number is measured by the number of deaths for every 1000 live deliveries. In 2013, 1,024 infants died before their 1st birthday. Blacks babies die at almost twice the rate of white and Hispanic babies. Our ranking tells it all, Ohio ranks 45th in Infant Mortality among all racial and ethnic groups and is the 2nd highest in the nation for African American babies.

The documented causes of death are early birth or babies born before 37 weeks gestation; sleep related deaths SIDS Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, asphyxia and undetermined cause account for the 3rd highest rates of infant deaths, followed closely in 4th babies born with a serious birth defect.

Some of the risk factors include mother’s health, smoking drinking or using illicit drugs during pregnancy, premature birth, unplanned pregnancy, late or no prenatal care, unsafe sleeping arrangements (placing the baby on its stomach, placing the infant in the bed with you), birth defects and poverty, are all every important risk factors in infant mortality rates. It is important to note that African American women with college degrees are more likely to experience the death of a baby than all racial and ethnic counterparts that haven’t graduated high school. These equities can all be summoned up by taking a long look at where we live, work, learn, play and worship. All of these things determine African American opportunities and chances of being healthy and social policies can make a difference in creating those opportunities.

Black women are more likely to experience gestational diabetes and hypertension during their pregnancies, less access to care, numerous preexisting conditions including being overweight. Black women are also more likely to report having inadequate housing, stressful work environments, no social support, transportation and child care issues.

Infant mortality rates can be reduced by focusing on job development, wage equality, increasing social support, addressing discrimination and systemic racism, availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, increase access to housing, transportation and parity in health care.

The Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition works within many of the areas across Northeast Ohio that have disproportionately high infant mortality rates ranging from 7.1 in Lorain County, 9.0 in Mahoning and 9.5 in Cuyahoga County compared to Mercer County with 3.6 which makes in the lowest infant mortality rate in the state. The difference between Mercer County and the other counties that are represented is 97.6% of its population is Caucasian. Lorain County is 86.8% white and 8.9% African American; Mahoning County is 80.9% white and 15.9% African American; and Cuyahoga County is 64.4% white and 30.3% African American.

We can no longer work in silos. African American organizations that have a great history within the community have been largely ignored when funding for various initiatives becomes available. This practice has to stop. We have far to many great community programs that are doing great work in the African American community. African Americans should not be the organizations contacted after the money has been spent with little to no outcomes or asked to sit at the table and provide a consulting service free of charge. How can you talk about being culturally competent without being culturally compliant? African American babies have been dying in high rates since emancipation many families look at losing babies as normal. “It’s just what happens.” This cultural norm is unacceptable. Whenever strategies are brought to the table African Americans that are working on that particular issue are not invited to the party. I love my church but there are far to many organizations that are doing great work in the community for the first and only stop to be the church. There are far to many people that have put their blood sweat and tears into building organizations only to be left out of the funding formula. We also have to look at the leadership that is hired to address infant mortality. We have a problem and the problem will never be solved until be realize that we have a problem with race. In regards to community interventions RACE MATTERS. Strategy without diversity spells disaster. African American babies are dying and the solutions lie within.


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