Understanding Infant Mortality

The New York Times recently wrote about a crisis that has plagued the United States for more than two centuries: Infant Mortality – specifically among African American mothers, who are more than twice as likely to lose a child during pregnancy or the first year of life than non-black women. Black infants die at a rate of 11.3 per 1,000 babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies – creating a racial divide wider than the one that existed during slavery.

It’s difficult to understand these numbers – especially when presented with the fact that they span all ages and incomes. Serena Williams and J.R. Smith are just two people who have discussed their struggles with high-risk and premature births.

As the article states, “…the reasons for the black-white divide in both infant and maternal mortality have been debated by researchers and doctors for more than two decades.”

Extensive research by some of the country’s top medical institutions point to two crucial factors: systemic, societal racism and a longstanding racial bias in health care.

Dozens of major cities across America have committed to addressing these issues and improving the health of their mothers and children. Reducing Infant Mortality has become a top priority from the largest medical systems to the smallest community organizations.

Cleveland is one of those cities. A recent article in Cleveland Scene pointed out that in 2015, the Ohio Department of Health released a report that showed black babies were dying at three times the rate of white babies. The article showcases a non-profit organization called Birthing Beautiful Communities, which is working to provide education and care to women of color during and after their pregnancies.

  • In 2017, there were 119 child deaths in Cuyahoga County, down from 155 in 2015 and 128 in 2016.
  • 38% of total births are from black moms, and black babies make up 78% of all infant deaths.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions (ACS) was recently engaged by First Year Cleveland, a consortium of non- and for-profit organizations determined to lower the Infant Mortality Rates in Cuyahoga County. Through extensive research and in-depth planning, ACS has developed a three-year Engagement and Public Policy plan which delivers a comprehensive approach to reducing Infant Mortality among Cleveland families. ACS is proud to be a part of this valuable effort. Birthing Beautiful Communities is a grantee of First Year Cleveland.

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