Minority Infant Mortality Rates High in Kansas, Wisconsin
Summaries appear below of recent news about black infant mortality rates in Kansas and Wisconsin.
- Kansas: Blacks comprise 6% of the state's population but account for 12% of Kansas' infant deaths, in large part because of poverty and racism, public health officials say, Kansas Health Institute News reports. According to KHI News, from 2003 to 2005, the black infant mortality rate in the state was 14.2 per 1,000 live births, compared with 6.6 for whites and 6.2 for Hispanics. Claudia Blackburn, director of health at the Sedgwick County Health Department, said that poverty and low socioeconomic status lead to a "whole cluster of behaviors that favor chronic diseases and high-risk pregnancies," such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. Health officials say that for uncertain reasons, racism also is a factor in blacks' higher infant mortality rate. Gianfranco Pezzino, associated director of public health studies at KHI, said that "most people in the scientific community think it's related to an overall lifetime experience of stress and lower levels of health that [blacks] have in this country, especially women." It also is unclear why Hispanics -- who report receiving less prenatal care than other groups -- have a lower infant mortality rate than blacks. Vernon Mills, a pediatrician and member of Kansas Health Policy Authority board, said the disparity could be addressed by first increasing health education and counseling. "This is a population that's high-risk to start with," Mills said, adding, "They don't plan their pregnancies, they may not be in the best shape to be pregnant, they may have pre-existing conditions they don't know about, and if they're pregnant for the first time, they're probably not prepared" (Ranney, Kansas Health Institute News, 8/4).
- Wisconsin: Black infants in Wisconsin have been three to four more times likely to die before their first birthday than white infants, and the state has the highest black infant mortality rate in the nation, according to data released last week by the state Department of Health and Family Services, the Daily Kenoshan reports. The city of Kenosha has the highest black infant mortality rate in the state: 18 per 1,000 live births, compared with 4.1 for whites and 3.35 for Hispanics. The data also indicated that there has been virtually no decline in the black infant mortality rate in the last two decades. Public officials attending a town hall meeting to discuss the data said the disparity can be attributed to a number of factors, including poor access to prenatal care, higher numbers of young and single mothers, and lower levels of education. DHFS in response has developed a plan, "Healthiest Wisconsin 2010, A Framework for Action to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Birth Outcomes" (Loring, Daily Kenoshan, 8/2). The plan is available online (.pdf).