Center for Health Reporting, Analysis, John Gonzales, Posted: May 7, 2013

In December, I wrote a series of articles with the San Francisco Chronicle that amounted to a tale of two counties in the fight against African American infant mortality.

African American infant mortality rates have been exponentially higher than that of the general population for decades. Traditional education efforts and increased attention to prenatal care have resulted in only incremental improvements.

But Alameda County, an aggressive, community-based approach to the problem has made promising gains in reducing the black infant death rate.

San Francisco County, with all the resources that exist in that wealthy, liberal metropolis, has one of the worst black infant mortality rates in the state.

What I didn’t have space to explore was the generational, and international, scope of infant mortality in the black community.

I must thank stakeholders like Jackie Copeland-Carson, executive director of the African Women’s Development Fund USA, for calling attention to the global scope of the problem. The philanthropic effort was established to raise American awareness of African women’s issues.

In San Francisco, I found a black infant mortality rate of 16.2 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with a white rate of 2.5. That six-fold disparity, partially influenced by the small size of San Francisco’s black population, is the widest gap for any county in the state.

Copeland-Carson points out that African-American women have consistently had the nation’s highest rates of infant mortality, more than two times the rate of white women. And in a haunting intergenerational and international measure, the daughters of African immigrants appear to have “caught up” in a key category that leads to infant death.

Second-generation African women often have children with the same low birth weights as African American women.

Copeland-Carson further points to an Amnesty International report that shows U.S. black women die in childbirth at nearly four times the level of white women.

Her group will target the Bay Area on May 18 with a public awareness campaign to mobilize community leadership and address black infant mortality.

It will launch in the community it seeks to impact, at the Bay Area’s annual health walk and resource fair, called the Soul Stroll for Health.

“The research has consistently shown that women from the African-American and African immigrant communities have the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the Bay Area, statewide and nationally,” said Copeland–Carson.

“We know that California has the nation’s largest African population. A targeted outreach that is inclusive of the new diversity of California’s black community is essential if we are to solve this health crisis.”

Cross-posted on May 7, 2013 at: http://centerforhealthreporting.org/blog/black-infant-mortality-international-perspective1105

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