Infant Mortality Higher in African Americans

Infant Mortality

A woman by the name of Corran Brown is an African-American woman, and an example of how some illnesses discriminate with higher infant mortality rates. She gave birth at 7 months after doctors gave the baby a shot to accelerate the development of his lungs. For six weeks, Brown had to wear gloves to touch her son through the incubator panels. Health officials say African-Americans have always been at a higher risk than whites when it comes to birth defects and diabetes.

Brown was able to take her son home after he reached four-and-a-half pounds, but even now he is at a disparate risk as African-American babies are allegedly two-and-a-half to three times more likely than white babies to die within the first year of life. They also suffer worse outcomes than any other major ethnic group.

Some believe this disparity results from the disproportionate poverty in African-American communities. African-Americans are also more likely to suffer from obesity, drug use, and diabetes, as some claim. Tyan Parker Dominguez with the University of Southern California researches this kind of disparity. She says there is a very strong correlation between class and health, which is probably the variable that is driving the disparity.

Dominguez suggests there is more to it than socioeconomic status to explain the higher rates of infant mortality in African-Americans. Latinos, who also suffer with poor socioeconomic status and health problems, still have higher infant success rates than blacks. Infant mortality for African-Americans is allegedly double the rate of Latinos. Reportedly, as a black woman’s socioeconomic level improves, it does not reduce the risk of poor birth outcomes, however. Dominguez says there are actually higher rates of infant mortality, or poor infant outcomes, when the socioeconomic status goes up for blacks and non-Hispanic white women. Dominguez’s theory is that black women experience more psychosocial stress in general, which could lead to early labor and other pregnancy related problems. The studies investigating this theory have controlled for poverty and other factors such as socioeconomic status. What some researchers have found is that black women experience stress due to real or perceived racism. Other researchers believe black women are simply predisposed to poorer birth outcomes due to genetics.

Dominguez says the genetics theory falls apart when you compare African-born black women with American-born black women, showing that the social context of where the woman lives plays a bigger role than her genes. Adverse outcomes are seen in black women who are American-born.

There is a nonprofit organization called Great Beginnings for Black Babies in Los Angeles County. A dozen new or expecting mothers have come to the support groups since its opening. One woman by the name of Johnetta Duckworth said she lost eight babies, but gave birth to four. At Great Beginnings, mothers can share their personal struggles and participate in spreading awareness. There are also opportunities to voice an opinion through their Facebook page. At Great Beginnings, they offer prenatal health education, social support, and empowerment sessions. The group’s mission is to reduce the high rates of infant mortality in African-American communities by encouraging parents to seek early and routine prenatal care, and to adopt healthy lifestyles. They believe it is extremely important to actively promote a healthy development of infants and children, which will in turn strengthen the outcome for families.

By Lindsey Alexander


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