New Jersey March of Dimes Program Seeks To Boost Birth Outcomes of Pregnant Black Women
The New Jersey Chapter of the March of Dimes is launching a new program that seeks to improve the birth and health outcomes of pregnant black women in the state, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. While the infant mortality rate among all groups has declined since the early 1990s, black infants still are more than twice as likely as white infants to die before turning age one. In addition, black women have the highest risk for delivering a premature baby, according to the Star-Ledger (Stewart, Newark Star-Ledger, 8/20).
The program, called "Body and Soul," is a nine-week instructional course that trains volunteers to teach pregnant black women about nutrition, stress, exercise and relaxation techniques, coping skills, spiritual health and other issues. The program will be held in local churches and health clinics. Xenia Acquaye, the chapter's associate director of program services, said, "Research has not been able to capture the true experience of being an African-American in the U.S., but we suspect that racism and stress are closely intertwined and have a huge impact on pregnancy outcomes" (AP/Asbury Park Press, 8/21).
The new effort to address issues related to the "lethal gap" in infant mortality rates between whites and minorities in the state "must be as persistent as the problem," a Star-Ledger editorial states. According to the Star-Ledger, the infant mortality rates among blacks "consistently have been the bad news among some otherwise encouraging statistics on baby deaths" in New Jersey. While the infant mortality rate among blacks has dropped from 17.3 deaths per 1,000 births in 1990 to 10.7 deaths per 1,000 births in 2004, the "rate is now where the state's overall rate was 20 years earlier," the editorial adds. It concludes, "This country and this state must do everything possible to eliminate one of the most tragic of health care disparities" (Newark Star-Ledger, 8/21).