Report Issues Grades For Racial Health Disparities

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In the first official report to grade Delaware on racial health disparities, the state received failing grades for disparities in infant mortality, prenatal care and mortality due to AIDS-related causes, the Wilmington News Journal reports. The Delaware Racial Ethnic Disparities Health Status Report Card was compiled by the state Department of Health and Social Services and the Department of Education. The report card, issued Wednesday, will be used by policy makers and health care groups to tailor programs and initiatives.

The report, based on data as recent as 2005, found that black infants in the state die at almost two-and-a-half times the rate of white infants. In addition, black women are more than one-and-a-half times as likely and Hispanic women are nearly three times as likely as white women not to receive prenatal care on time. The state received "F" grades for disparities in infant mortality and prenatal care.

Terry Casson Ferguson of Resource Mothers Program, a group that helps high-risk pregnant women with prenatal and pediatric care, said many black women delay prenatal care because of fear of discrimination. "A lot of people of color have a great disdain for medicine in general," Melinti Carr, another member of Resource Mothers, said. Poverty also prevents many black women from seeking prenatal care, Luv Bronson, another member of the group, said.

To help narrow infant mortality and prenatal care disparities, Delaware has spent more than $8 million to collect infant and maternal data and provide grants to local programs that offer comprehensive prenatal and preconception care. The data and the new report card are expected to improve as a result of such efforts, Herman Ellis, state medical director, said.

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According to the report, blacks with HIV/AIDS die at a rate almost 15 times as high as that of whites. The report did show that minorities fared better in some categories. The state received an "A" for the percentage of minorities who smoke during pregnancy and a "B" for mortality rate disparities in cardiovascular disease. Several categories for Hispanics were not graded due to inconclusive data, according to the News Journal (Ratnayake, Wilmington News Journal, 11/13).

Editorial

"The First State's 'F' for disparities in infant mortality and prenatal care among blacks and death rates for blacks with HIV is an abysmal rating," and the "truth" behind the findings "may require a fuller explanation," a Wilmington News Journal editorial states. According to the News Journal, "The blame game often focuses on cultural stereotypes of irresponsibility, which carry some weight. But some cultural misconceptions can be addressed with clearer messages about the high stakes involved."

In addition, a "deeper probing is necessary of other possible factors that can be controlled for" and some organizations, such as Delaware's Black Caucus and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca have developed efforts to address possible barriers to health care and prescription drugs. The editorial concludes, "Increasing and improving the public channels of information through conventional and unconventional avenues is also a critical part of the solution" (Wilmington News Journal, 11/14).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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