Infant Mortality – the death of a child before his or her first birthday – has been a serious crisis since well before the advent of modern medicine. But it’s come into a new light in the last few years, particularly regarding African American children, because these children die at an alarmingly higher rate than children of other races.
The Editorial Board of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and its sister site, Cleveland.com, recently wrote about one organization that’s working to end the crisis in Northeast Ohio. First Year Cleveland was established in 2015 to address Infant Mortality in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, which have some of the worst infant death rates in the country. African American babies are dying SIX TIMES more often than white babies in Cuyahoga County.
First Year Cleveland – along with its dedicated team of hospital leaders, activists, researchers and public officials – have committed to solving this crisis by understanding, and combatting, racial bias and its effect on infant deaths. This includes looking at the impact of stress on pregnancy, how women of color are treated during medical care and what it’s like for these families to lose a baby.
What is “Racial Bias” as it Relates to Health Care?
According to the Cleveland.com article, “Doctors and researchers have debated the reason for the racial divide in infant deaths for decades, but have struggled to explain why black women in America, across incomes, are more likely to deliver early and suffer a loss. Recently a consensus has been building that being a black woman, with its accompanying and unavoidable daily experiences of interpersonal and systemic racism, causes a real and measurable toll on the body in the form of excess stress, which can lead to conditions that directly impact infant and maternal health.”
One First Year Cleveland team member, Christin Farmer, founded an organization of community-based doulas called Birthing Beautiful Communities (BBC), which seeks to combat this bias – as well as Infant Mortality – through education, pregnancy support and parent development. Vice recently featured BBC’s efforts and shed a national spotlight on Cleveland’s crisis and what these dedicated organizations are doing to change it. BBC is just one strategy that First Year Cleveland is elevating to address infant mortality and the underlying issues that drive the disproportionate number of babies of color that die each year.
Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) is proud to partner with First Year Cleveland where ACS developed and is currently helping to implement FYC’s Engagement and Public Policy plan. This comprehensive effort seeks to change and implement strategic local, state, and federal policy priorities to help build a more a comprehensive approach (including matters of racial bias) to reduce Infant Mortality in Cleveland.