Infant health requires new perspective
September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month. In Wisconsin, the rate of deaths among children less than 1 year of age is among the lowest in the nation. While our state is making progress in raising awareness and reducing these deaths, one side of the story still needs to be addressed: disparities among racial groups. In Beloit, an African-American baby is twice as likely to die by age 1 as a white baby.
Infant mortality rates among all races are important for community awareness because low infant mortality indicates general good health, including the health of mothers, the community’s access to medical care and health awareness. Additionally, from an economic standpoint, a healthy community is more productive and will decrease health care costs associated with premature and sick babies.
The Beloit community is working to decrease differences in infant mortality rates between African-American and white babies. In 2005, a coalition of concerned residents worked to establish the Beloit African American Infant Mortality Coalition, led by Marilyn Kilgore. The goal was to reduce infant deaths among African-Americans through education and awareness. In 2010, this coalition partnered with the Wisconsin Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families. This collaboration received a $200,000 grant from the Wisconsin Partnership Program to carry out a 20-month community needs assessment focused on this issue. More than 85 agencies, organizations and individuals contributed to this process.
Based on the information gathered from this assessment, Beloit LIHF is ready to begin the project’s implementation phase. The focus is to connect public health services, local organizations and community members to initiate change. We’ve developed sn extensive Community Action Plan to increase access to health care for African-Americans, strengthen their families, and address social and economic inequities related to race. The goal is to promote the social determinants of health, that where you live, learn, work and play all affect your life.
The collaborative is involving in the conversation those community members who are most affected by these health issues by giving them voices to effect change. They’ve seen a positive change in community awareness surrounding infant mortality and its community health implications.
We are making a difference. You can tell the difference from the beginning to where we are now, and that’s important.
In terms of combating this issue, the most important aspect to keep in mind is that this is not simply a “race” issue but one that affects the community overall. This means that to reduce these disparities will take the entire Beloit community’s commitment. Because this problem is multifaceted, community members can get involved in several ways.
The African American Infant Mortality Coalition meets at 6 p.m. the first Monday of each month at the Merrill Community Center. The Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families meets at 9 a.m. the second Monday of the month at the Merrill Community Center. Come and join this important community initiative.
Cheryl Jackson is president and Angela Moore is project manager of the Beloit LIHF Collaborative. For more information, contact Moore by email at email@example.com or 608-751-4619.