S.B. Black Babies Face Dire Statistics
By Dianne Anderson
At first glance, local Black infant death statistics seem wrong, but it’s not a typo.
It’s hard to imagine the reaction of policy makers if white babies were dying at the same alarming rate of Black babies in America. Typically, Black infants die double, often triple, the rate of white babies before their first birthday.
Those statistics have barely budged over the years, and if anything, depending on the state or the region, it’s getting worse – except for one area.
Earlier this year, Sacramento County released its report showing that from 2013 to 2016, they were able to reduce the Black infant death rate by a whopping 45%.
The team attributes the success to staff working with over 70 community-based organizations, which included home visits, training for safe sleep and parenting classes, youth mentorship and after-school programming.
Locally, the 2018 California Department of Public Health reports that 2013-2015, San Bernardino County saw an increase in the average infant mortality for all babies. For that time period, white infant death was at 6%, Hispanic infant mortality was at 5.6%.
But Black babies had taken the brunt of death impact, dying at 13.2% in San Bernardino County. At last count, San Bernardino County DPH reports Black infant death in 2016 was at 14.9%, compared to all races at 6.4%.
Elizabeth Sneed-Berrie, the County Public Health Program Coordinator of the Black Infant Health program, said they are currently calling on African American soon-to-be moms to take advantage of their upcoming ten sessions on how to protect their babies.
She said they require a minimum of five moms to get the cohort started, with an upper limit of 12 women to participate in each cycle of the ten-week sessions. For their time and effort, the program is giving away free baby bouncers.
“We’re focused stress reductions, making sure that they’re going to their medical appointments, prenatal [services], developing support systems between the mom and the cohort so that they have each other to rely on,” she said.
To participate in the free prenatal BIH program, women must be African American, 18 years or older, they must be a San Bernardino County resident, pregnant at 30 weeks or less. Free transportation is provided for women living in San Bernardino city and surrounding areas.
Prenatal Support Open Enrollment for Black Infant Health Program starts Friday, March 22 from 1:00-2:00 p.m. Moms are asked to contact the office about registration.
Recently, she said that she and a colleague presented to the county Transitional Assistance Department.
“They have a lot of young ladies that can utilize the service. We want to make sure that we’re reaching out to those individuals,” said Sneed-Berrie.
Through the sessions, mothers participate in a group setting, and linked to many local services through their family health advocate. They are taught how to seek out and connect with community and county programs to get the resources they need.
They also have family health advocates that case manage, as well as a mental health professional to address any mental health issues, and refer out to those services.
“The most important thing is getting that support for the moms, and it’s making sure that they’re going to their medical appointments, if there are any stressors that they’re having, that they are being taken care of. That’s the biggest issues for the mom,” she said.
The Office of Minority Health reports that the top four causes of Black infant death are low birth weight, congenital malformations, maternal complications, followed by Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Harder + Company, a research consulting firm, is working with San Bernardino Department of Public Health on a Perinatal Health Equity Initiative, as part of a statewide effort to address the causes of persistent inequality in Black infant mortality and identify best practices to address the disparities.
Currently, that group is organizing discussions with African American mothers who had a baby in San Bernadino County, along with community stakeholders, to help improve Black infant maternal health. The research gathered from the focus groups will be used to develop an action plan, to be submitted to California Department of Public Health to bring funding to the county to help decrease maternal and infant mortality.
Harder + Company did not return a call for comment by press time.
As part of a three-day local outreach across the county, the Perinatal Health Equity Initiative (PEI) Community Focus Group will be held at various times and locations, and include refreshments. Participating African American mothers get a free $15 gift card to Target or Walmart for coming out and sharing their stories of their pregnancies in San Bernardino County.
On Monday, March 25, the event will be held at Cora Harper Fitness Center, 841 Barstow Rd in Barstow. Another outreach will be held at the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), located at 15247 Eleventh St #700 in Victorville. Both events run from 10:30 a.m. To noon.
On Tuesday, March 26, the first of two PEI events will be held at Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) 9161 Sierra Ave., Suite 104 in Fontana, and runs from 1:30 p.m. To 3:00 p.m. Another outreach also runs from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. at the Community Library, located at 215 E C Street in Ontario.
On Wednesday, March 27, the PEI outreach event will be held at First 5 San Bernardino located at 735 E. Carnegie Drive, Suite 150 in San Bernardino.
To register for the PEI focus group, contact 888-433-1363.
To connect with San Bernardino County Black Infant Health program, call 844-352-3985.