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Examining Infant Mortality, Racial Disparities

Armen Hareyan's picture

Infant Mortality

The Tallahassee Democrat recently published a series of articles andopinion pieces examining the infant mortality rate in Leon County, Fla.According to the Democrat, the county's infant mortality rate amongblacks is 15.8 deaths per 1,000 births, while the rate is 4.5 deaths amongwhites. The county's overall rate is above the average for Florida.

According to the Democrat, premature birth, low birthweight, birthdefects, sudden infant death syndrome and child abuse are some of the factorsbehind why some infants die before their first birthdays. Local officials areconcerned that the number of premature and low birthweight infants hasincreased as women have become more overweight and have conditions such ashypertension and diabetes.

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State epidemiologist Bill Sappenfield said, "Infant mortality is a chronicproblem," adding, "There are many risk factors, many issues and manyproblems." Spurgeon McWilliams, a Tallahasseedoctor, said that infant mortality disparities coincide with other social andhealth disparities in the U.S.,including higher HIV rates, higher incarceration rates and lower incomes amongblacks. McWilliams said, "This is just a part of that whole matrix. Youcan address [infant mortality]. You can chip away at it. But you probably can'tfix 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 droppedlargely because of increased access to advanced medical care and an aggressivecampaign to prevent sudden infant death syndrome by placing infants on theirbacks to sleep. Now, the focus should be on the health of women before theybecome pregnant, the Democrat reports.

The local community is hosting workshops and study groups on infant mortalitythroughout the spring, the Democrat reports (Portman, TallahasseeDemocrat, 2/3).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly HealthDisparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of TheHenry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.