Series of Newspaper Articles Examines Infant Mortality, Racial Disparities in Florida
The Tallahassee Democrat recently published a series of articles and opinion pieces examining the infant mortality rate in Leon County, Fla. According to the Democrat, the county's infant mortality rate among blacks is 15.8 deaths per 1,000 births, while the rate is 4.5 deaths among whites. The county's overall rate is above the average for Florida.
According to the Democrat, premature birth, low birthweight, birth defects, sudden infant death syndrome and child abuse are some of the factors behind why some infants die before their first birthdays. Local officials are concerned that the number of premature and low birthweight infants has increased as women have become more overweight and have conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.
State epidemiologist Bill Sappenfield said, "Infant mortality is a chronic problem," adding, "There are many risk factors, many issues and many problems." Spurgeon McWilliams, a Tallahassee doctor, said that infant mortality disparities coincide with other social and health disparities in the U.S., including higher HIV rates, higher incarceration rates and lower incomes among blacks. McWilliams said, "This is just a part of that whole matrix. You can address [infant mortality]. You can chip away at it. But you probably can't fix it without fixing all the problems."
While infant mortality rates since 1975 had been dropping at the national, state and local levels, the rates have held mostly steady since the mid-1990s, the Democrat reports. Experts have said that the rates dropped largely because of increased access to advanced medical care and an aggressive campaign to prevent sudden infant death syndrome by placing infants on their backs to sleep. Now, the focus should be on the health of women before they become pregnant, the Democrat reports.
The local community is hosting workshops and study groups on infant mortality throughout the spring, the Democrat reports (Portman, Tallahassee Democrat, 2/3).
Headlines of the other articles in the series appear below.
- "Community Members Get Advice From Elsewhere on How To Deal With Infant Mortality" (Corbett, Tallahassee Democrat, 2/3).
- "Local Companies Back Infant-Health Aid" (Brown, Tallahassee Democrat, 2/3).
- "Gadsen's Expectant Mothers Face Hurdles" (Taylor, Tallahassee Democrat, 2/4).
- "Hard To Say 'Baby,' 'Death' in Same Breath" (Kant-Rauch, Tallahassee Democrat, 2/4).
- "These Groups Offer Medical Care, Consolation or Research" (Yang, Tallahassee Democrat, 2/4).
- "Saving Dreams: Infant Mortality Is Our Region's Sorrow" (Tallahassee Democrat, 2/3).
- "Our Commitment: Help Keep Babies Alive" (Gabordi, Tallahassee Democrat, 2/3).