September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month, and the organization Save the Children ranked the United States near the bottom of industrialized nations when it comes to infant mortality around the world. The president and CEO, Charles MacCormack said the following, “In countries where mothers do well, children do well.”
Apparently mothers are not doing very well here, which of course means that the babies are not, and in that group African American infants are most at risk. They have 2.3 times the infant mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control, or the CDC. In 2000, the U.S. had an average of 6.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, however the rate among blacks was 14.1 deaths.
Kimberly Seals Allers, Editorial director of Womensenews, addresses this issue, and does so from the viewpoint of an African American woman. She says, “As black women we have to look at our nutrition and our lifestyle to see where we can do our personal best to bring healthy babies into the world.” But that is definitely not the whole picture, according to Allers. She maintains there are larger forces at play, such as lifetime conditions of great stress, which may contribute to poor nutrition and physical conditions that put fetuses at risk.
Mortality rates are higher for African American women and men for most major causes of disease and death. This is an issue well worth examining, to say the least. In order to shed some light on this issue Allers discusses the work of Dr. Camara Jones, the research director on social determinants of health and equity at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Jones believes that encouraging people to have healthier habits is not the answer to ending health disparities. People’s choices regarding health matters can be aided or made more difficult by social determinants of health. These determinants can include things from education, to housing and income. To eliminate racial disparities in health, society has to eliminate the causes of those disparities, according to Dr. Jones.
Allers maintains that there is a lack of information about black maternal health.