Florida Officials Meet To Discuss High Black Infant Mortality Rates
The Black Infant Health Practice Initiative in Miami-Dade County, Fla., on Wednesday held a town hall meeting to examine why the rate of infant mortality among blacks in the county is twice as high as that of whites, the Miami Herald reports. A panel of medical professionals, government agency officials and community leaders discussed possible ways to address the racial disparity and previous efforts that have not worked.
Tamara Taitt, spokesperson for the local Healthy Start program, said that placing more clinics in low-income neighborhoods or increasing access to care has not necessarily addressed the problem. She said, "What is most striking about the issue of black infant mortality is that socioeconomic status and education is not protective." For black women, having a higher education and living in a better neighborhood does not reduce their risk of infant or fetal death, according to the Herald. Taitt said, "It would be impossible to prevent all infant mortality -- babies are going to be born and babies are going to die," adding, "What can be eliminated is the disparity."
James Bridges, a retired ob-gyn who practiced in the county for 35 years, said that stress and crowded living conditions can affect access to care. He also said that physicians must make extra efforts when treating black women to ensure they are receiving adequate care. He said, "We need to prioritize and come up with some things that will make the most difference right away," adding, "We need all obstetricians to be aware that they have to take an increased interest in their black obstetric patients to be sure they are covering all these potential problems." Bridges continued, "We think we don't have to do anything extra. But I think we do" (Bardo-Colon, Miami Herald, 7/16).
"Improving the overall health of all childbearing women before they become pregnant is the real solution" to addressing the high infant mortality rate among black women, a Florida Times-Union editorial states. "Stress caused by racism could be a major factor in the high rates of death of African-American babies" under 12 months in age, the editorial notes.
"Asking that racism be cured seems an impossible job," but there are "medical and social support groups that can help women develop the strength to avoid the low weight and early-term births that lead to infant mortality," according to the Times-Union. Efforts such as smoking cessation classes, educational training, job placement and peer support from other pregnant women seem to work, the editorial says.
"And that means spending some money on these programs, many of which are not directly connected to health. Think of them as investments," the editorial states, adding, "For every healthy childbearing woman, the impact can be felt in the next generation" (Florida Times-Union, 7/15).