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Local Reporter to Present Panel on Black Infant Mortality
By Jennifer Bihm, Contributing Writer
Published December 12, 2018

On January 24, KPCC and local reporter Priska Neely are inviting the public to “Racism and Reproduction: What Black Women Need to Know”, an panel discussion on black infant mortality. (photo courtesy of cdph.org.)

KPCC in Person and reporter Priska Neely are inviting the public January 24, to “Racism and Reproduction: What Black Women Need to Know”, a panel discussion on the high prevelance of Black infant mortality in America, taking place at the LA84 Foundation in Los Angeles. Guest speakers include Debbie Allen – owner and clinical director of Tribe Midwifery, Raena Granberry – mother, maternal-child health advocate and program manager with Black Women for Wellness and Dr. La Tanya Hines – OB-GYN, Kaiser Permanente.

“Racism not Race”, say panel orchestrators, is the main cause of the wide disparity.

“Black babies born in the United States are two times more likely to die before their first birthday than white babies,” said event organizers.

“The numbers are even worse in Los Angeles, where black babies are three times more likely than white babies to die. Lowering those rates is a priority for local public health officials…”

Neely, a reporter for KPCC wrote a series on the subject, as part of her project for USC’s Center for Health Journalism fellowship, seeing that members of her own family had been affected. One of the leading causes of infant mortality, she said, is prematurity… infants are born too soon and too small. Both her sisters experienced such, she said.

“One of my sisters lost two babies and my other nephew was born premature,” Neely explained to the Sentinel recently.

“[Neither one of them] knew they were part of this larger issue.”

The event, she said, is to amplify the extensive reporting that she has done on the subject.

“I’ve met people during the process of my reporting who had never heard about this trend until something terrible had affected them and they experienced a loss personally.”

“For months [I’d] been talking to researchers, community health workers, educators and others who are working to improve birth outcomes,” she wrote in an article from her series.

“I began most of my interviews by asking how they found out about the disparity in infant mortality rates. Some happened upon the information while searching for research topics in grad school. Others learned once they experienced their own loss.

“I’ve also learned that this is not an issue that can simply be solved in a hospital or clinic. This problem is big and persistent and complex. Like most health inequities, this is about social and economic systems and the distribution of money and power…

“It’s something I continue to cover. And, the way the [county of Los Angeles] is really addressing it, is looking at the connection to racism and chronic stress. And, my thought on that is always, if the issue is chronic stress and then you don’t find out about it until you’re pregnant, then you’re already stressed and that’s just a terrible time to worry about it.”

In 1989, Los Angeles County’s Public Health Department was one of the first entities to receive funding from California’s Black Infant Health Program, in response to the high mortality rates among black babies. Their goal was to create culturally specific perinatal programs aimed at prevention and reduction. And, though they have made some headway with those efforts, county health officials said the problem persists.

“Despite a gradual decline in African American infant mortality in L.A. County since 2007, African American infants continue to die at more than 3 times the rate observed for white and Asian infants, the two racial/ethnic groups with the lowest infant mortality rates,” they said.

The panel’s mission is to empower women with information on ways they can protect themselves. The event begins at 7:00 pm. For more information visit https://www.scpr.org/events/2019/01/24/2660/racism-and-reproduction.

Categories: Family | Health
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