High Black infant mortality rate in AV
Program educates moms, help babies reach first birthday
LANCASTER, Calif. — The Black Infant Health (BIH) Program of the Antelope Valley is hosting its annual celebrate healthy babies event called “A Mother’s Gift,” and the program will feature entertainment, food, and gifts for the mothers and children who have received services from BIH.
The event will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Antelope Valley Christian Center, 304 W. Lancaster Blvd. in Lancaster, and is open to the public.
BIH is a non-profit organization dedicated to nurturing mothers and babies in the community, especially African Americans.
Black infants in California are twice as likely to die during the first year of life than other infant groups. In the Antelope Valley, in particular, African American infant death rates are 18.3 per 1000 live births, while the national average is 7.3.
The disparity is due, in part, to the lack of resources, education, healthy eating habits, and access to prenatal care in the valley. But further research unveils that racism has a significant effect.
Gwen Cole, program coordinator of BIH of the Antelope Valley, says researchers have found that prejudice and discrimination is a direct cause of a fetus being stressed out.
“It used to be that poverty, lack of resources, and lack of education were the sole causes, but they are finding middle class women who get prenatal care are having the same problems,” Cole explained. She said a PBS documentary called “Unnatural Causes,” uncovers the unusual disparity for African American babies.
She also said that Black infant mortality rates, particularly in the Antelope Valley, are the highest in the county. In fact, Third World countries have better rates of babies born than Blacks in the county.
“When the program began in the Los Angeles County, 59 babies had passed away; 32 of them were Black and from the Antelope Valley,” she said.
BIH has educated and empowered mothers across the county to ensure that their babies make it past their first birthday. Cole says the women in her program have seen dramatic changes in their children and have learned the value of preconception planning, prenatal care, and post partum education.
“We have some babies that had low birth weight,” Cole shared. “But because our mothers understood the importance of breast feeding, their babies got to a healthy birth weight much faster than they would normally, and shortened their hospital stay.”
The organization offers several programs and provides their clients with individual caseworkers, who check up on the ladies before, during, and after pregnancy. Even on the day mothers give birth, their support system is right there coaching them along the way.
While infant mortality affects people across the color line, Cole emphasizes that the program is especially important in the Black community, because the disparity is extraordinarily greatest among African Americans.
“Black Infant Health is not the only program that is fighting infant mortality … I believe that any baby dying is tragic, but people do not understand why we only address the needs of Black babies.
We are not a discriminatory people, but we have the biggest problem, so we need to focus on us first,” Cole said.
For more information about BIH and Celebrate Healthy Babies: A Mother’s Gift, contact the organization office at (661) 945-0650.
With National Minority Health Month quickly approaching, a local organization confronts the Black infant mortality rate—a decades old problem—by empowering one college-educated woman at a time.
On behalf of iDream for Racial Health Equity, a project of Community Partners, applications for the iDream Millennial Leadership Program are now open.
For more than 22 years, Great Beginnings for Black Babies Inc. has provided stellar services to its base clientele—pregnant and parenting women. Founded in 1990 to address skyrocketing infant mortality rates in the African American community, Great Beginnings set about the business of impacting those negative rates by encouraging women to live healthy lives devoid of tobacco, alcohol or drugs.
Troubled over the fact that Black babies still are dying at double, and in some cases, triple the rate of any other ethnic group in this country before their first birthday, Great Beginnings for Black Babies Inc. will host a community forum, “The Young and the Breathless: Why are Black Babies Still Dying?” free brunch, film screening and expert panel discussion beginning at 11:30 a.m., Saturday at the Lucy Florence Cultural Center, 3351 W. 43rd St., Los Angeles.