California babies are dying. With the infant mortality rate mirroring that of a third world country, the community has cause for alarm. In California, nearly triple the number of African American infants die within their first year of life than that of white babies. Based on results from the State of Black California report, commissioned by the Legislative Black Caucus, for every 1,000 African American live births, approximately 11 babies will not make it to their first birthday. In contrast, the white infant mortality rate is four out of 1,000 live births.
High infant mortality rates are concerning in every community. However, when there is a double-digit increase due to race we have a responsibility to specifically bridge that gap. Although there are many factors that contribute to the disproportionate rate of infant deaths, race is clearly a major factor according to the data. Therefore we must start with the most vulnerable demographic. If we can find solutions to improve the infant mortality rate in the African American community, we will be able to apply the effort to all communities.
To start we need to focus on the mother. We know that there is a direct collation between the status of the mother and the status of their baby. When the mother does well the baby does well. Providing resources and assistance at the beginning and continue beyond the pregnancy is the first step.
Creating inter-pregnancy care programs to reduce the rate of infant mortality among African American women, which is proposed in Assembly Bill 741, will help target the root of the issue. These pilot programs in Los Angeles and Oakland will target African-American females who have had an experience of infant mortality. It will directly combat low birth rate, which is one of the factors that can determine the infant’s survival as well as their future health condition. This addresses the issue in the front end helping perspective mothers throughout their pregnancies in order to improve the overall outcomes including healthy births and therefore healthy infants.
Unfortunately, the problem is too large for just one program to fill in all the gaps alone. It can be solved with the right effort and resources. As the sixth largest economy in the world, California can fully fund programs to tackle this problem if the will is there. We tackle the states ills everyday locally, regionally and statewide. The desire to ensure that our constituents have a better quality of life drives many of our efforts. Saving our children should drive us to always find a way especially when their voices cannot be heard.
These are babies. They are someone’s child, grandchild, sister or brother. Not everything is okay in our great state when babies die and no one notices but grieving mothers and family members.
We must do better; we can do better!