Addressing High Infant Mortality Rate

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The Tarrant County, Texas, Infant Mortality Network "is working to educate women, particularly in the [black] community, which historically has the highest rate of infant deaths, about the importance of preconception and prenatal care," Jerry Roberson, chair of IMN, writes in a Fort Worth Star-Telegram opinion piece. IMN includes 18 local organizations, headed by Catholic Charities, that are working together to reduce infant mortality in the county (Roberson, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 10/6).

The county has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the state, and the rate among blacks in the county is about twice as high as it is for other ethnicities, according to Roberson. Several factors can contribute to infant mortality among blacks, such as the pregnant woman's health, stress level and limited access to health care services (Kaiser Health Disparities Report, 9/26).

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Roberson writes, "The leading cause of death is prematurity and low birth weight, resulting from poor maternal health," adding, "Sadly, one in five pregnant women in Tarrant County receives late or no prenatal care, and unhealthy mothers tend to result in unhealthy babies." He continues, "We must encourage women to get healthy before they become pregnant, to seek medical care immediately upon learning they are pregnant, to make healthy choices and to understand pre-existing health conditions that may make pregnancy a high risk."

Roberson writes, "If we can persuade women to be better stewards of their health from the time that they are little girls through adulthood, we'll see long-term improvements in infant mortality and our county's overall health status." He adds, "We can change the statistics if we work within our families, our churches, our schools and our civic groups, encouraging women to make healthy choices before, during and after pregnancy, and helping them find the resources they need" (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 10/6).

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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