What…Mortality Rate for Black Babies Outweighs All Others?


*I recall one of my greatest fears during pregnancy was something happening to my baby. While I was a generally happy pregnant woman, all the talk about children dying in their sleep — Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) — or children born with low birth weight not making it to their first year scared the crap out of me. This was especially harsh since I was a low birth-weight child, born to an alcoholic mother.

I remember once I gave birth, for months thereafter, waking up every 30-minutes to turn my baby from her back to her stomach and vice-versa; or placing my finger under her little nose to make sure she was still breathing.

It was maddening, and not unlike many new mothers, I got very little sleep for the first 6-months of her life!

So when I read a report in the Sacramento Bee that claims children in impoverished areas of the county are dying — and Black children more than any other race or ethnicity even more so, it was very disconcerting. Especially in this day and age when so many medical strides have been made.

Why is this STILL happening?

First, a bit of background.

The Sacramento Bee reports that between 2010 and 2015, nearly one quarter of the 873 children 18 and under who died in Sacramento County were Black. And at that time Black children only made up 11 percent of the population represented in that age category.

Also, after the publication performed an in-depth review of state death certificates, they found that Black children’s mortality rate was more than two times greater than that of white children and nearly three times greater than that of Asian and Latino children.

beautiful black baby, toddler

When a 2012 report by Sacramento’s Child Death Review Team found that the Black child mortality rate was consistently higher than that of other racial groups from 1990 until 2009, four major causes were cited:

One: perinatal conditions like low birth weight and premature birth; Two: sleep-related incidents such as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); Three: death from child abuse or neglect by primary caregivers; and Four: acts of violence committed by non-primary care givers.

But Phil Serna, a county supervisor in Sacramento references another reason, “…When the thing you are measuring is whether or not a certain group of your constituents is less likely to see their 10th birthday than another group because of their ethnicity or their ZIP code, it’s so unacceptable, it feels silly to even have to say it.”

The highest mortality rate for Black children was centered in the 95841 ZIP code of the county. Black kids here died at a rate six times higher than the countywide average for all children between 2010 and 2015, according to the Sacramento Bee.

207 African-American children died between 2010 and 2015. 38 percent of the deaths were due to perinatal conditions; 18 percent suffered fatal sleep-related incidents like SIDS; and 8 percent of children’s deaths were due to homicide, according to the Bee‘s death certificate review.

So what is being done now that the research has been conducted? County officials performed an analysis and have now announced plans to launch a $26 million initiative called the Steering Committee on Reduction of African American Child Deaths. The project will broaden existing programs and enlist community leaders who will link low-income residents to the resources they need. More social workers, health care providers and law enforcement officials will also be brought into the county.

According to the publication, the goal is to cut Black child mortality by 10 to 20 percent by 2020.

“It’s my duty to protect my babies,” said Debra Cummings, a mother from the Del Paso Heights neighborhood who has been vocal about expanding youth recreation in her community. “I will not sit here another day and comfort another husband or mother who has lost their child when there’s something I could have done.”

Source: Sacramento Bee

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