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September is National Infant Mortality Awareness Month: Black Women Take Notice!

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September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month: A Matter of Life and Death for Black Moms By Kimberly Seals Allers “In countries where mothers do well, children do well," said Charles MacCormack, president and CEO of Save the Children said after issuing a report on infant mortality that ranked the United States near the bottom of industrialized nations alongside Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia. Included in that report (and many subsequent others) were even more damming statistics about African American babies. African Americans have 2.3 times the infant mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites. Black babies are four times as likely to die as infants due to complications related to low birth weight as compared to non-Hispanic white infants.   If African American, Latino and Native American children aren’t doing well, that means that this country is miserably failing women of color and Black women in particular,  in birthing healthy babies. This month and every one after, we have to ask what is going on with Black mothers. What factors may affect our general health or the care we receive during pregnancy such that our pregnancies and babies are so adversely impacted? As Black women we have to look at ourselves, our nutrition and our lifestyles to see where we can do our personal best to bring healthy babies into the world. Researchers say lifelong conditions of high stress and low support may contribute to poor nutrition and physical responses that put unborn babies at risk. Counteracting these forces, is a big part of the work I do every day here at www.mochamanual.com  helping moms of color, and black mothers in particular, get the information and support they need to have healthy babies and be powerful parents.   

And while we’re at it, let’s also ask the broader question of why racial disparities regarding health continue to exist in this country. According to recent government data, mortality rates for African American women are higher than any other racial/ethnic group for nearly every major cause of death including heart disease, breast cancer and heart diseases. Nearly every major cause of death? How can this be? The truth is that whatever health measure or disease you look at Black Americans, both male and female, tend to have higher incidences and higher death rates.

How can we explain that? It’s a sobering question for many who believe that racism doesn’t exist anymore, isn’t a factor anymore or that talking about race that makes it an issue.

And when it comes to babies who never make it to their first birthday at an alarmingly disproportionate rate, I’d hope that all mothers agree that the cause is worth, perhaps, an uncomfortable conversation. That saving babies is worth having an honest look at your viewpoints and unintentional biases, and asking our medical researchers, doctors, politicians, journalists and educators to do the same. 

When we can lift the veil off the truth of our experiences as women and mothers, even when it involves uncomfortable conversations and uncomfortable realizations about our own belief systems, then we can really move forward. It’s the least we can do, people. There are newborn lives at stake.  As a country we have to figure out how to address this problem. As a black woman, who can’t afford to wait for the government to figure out to save our babies, I have to figure out how. And as mothers and women, whose lives are all interconnected, we have to figure out how.

 

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