Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Wichita NAACP Partners with Sedgwick County to host Tonya Lewis Lee in Wichita to fight Infant Mortality

The Wichita Branch NAACP to partner with the Sedgwick County Health Department's Healthy Babies Program to host award-winning TV Producer, Tonya Lewis Lee, as she travels through Wichita on a three city tour throughout the State of Kansas. Ms. Lee’s visit is part of a statewide education campaign coordinated by the Kansas Blue Ribbon Panel on Infant Mortality in April, National Minority Health Awareness Month.

Researchers and health experts have sought unsuccessfully for years to determine why African American women suffer significantly higher infant mortality rates than their white counterparts. As the gap between black and white infant deaths continues to expand, it is time to address this paradox with new approaches. Over the past decade, the infant mortality rate for Kansas has remained relatively unchanged while the U.S. rate continued to decline. In 2008, Kansas’ rate of 7.25 infant deaths per 1,000 live births was higher than the national rate of 6.59 per 1,000 live births. (The national rate is based on preliminary death data published by the National Center for Vital Statistics).

According to the most recent annual summary published by the National Center for Vital Statistics (2007 data), Kansas ranked first (worst) among other states for black infant mortality. Reports from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) Bureaus of Epidemiology and Public Health Informatics indicate the following: From 2000 – 2009, a 33 percent increase in the infant mortality rate was observed for non-Hispanic black infants. The non-Hispanic black infant mortality rate in 2009 was 2.6 times higher than the rate for non-Hispanic white infants. In 2009, Non-Hispanic black babies represent 6.8 percent of births and 15.2 percent of deaths.

While the root causes of these disparities in infant mortality rates is not thoroughly understood, the operating theory has been that the high incidence of infant deaths among African Americans is attributed to higher teen pregnancy rates, single motherhood, lower education levels, poverty, stress, and–most recently suggested–genetic causes.

Clearly, however, the need for new approaches to understanding this phenomenon is underscored by research disclosing that high levels of infant mortality persist, even when most of these factors are controlled. Also consider that African Americans have higher infant mortality rates in every age category. Furthermore, the genetic theory is weakened by research that shows better birth outcomes among foreign–born black women. It seems that regardless of their socioeconomic status, native–born African American women fare worse in birth outcomes compared to white women at every income and education level.

Wichita, KS – Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Host Organization: Sedgwick County Health Department, Healthy Babies Program
Contact: Susan Wilson, Program Director – sewilson@sedgwick.gov

Topeka, KS – Thursday, April 21, 2011
Host Organization: The Kansas African American Affairs Commission
Contact: Mildred Edwards, Executive Director – mildred.edwards@ks.gov

Kansas City, KS – Friday, April 22, 2011
Host Organization: Mother & Child Health Coalition
Contact: Susan McLoughlin, Executive Director – smcloughlin@mchc.net


Aiko Allen, MS, Director
Center for Health Disparities
KDHE Division of Health
Email: AiAllen@kdheks.gov
Phone: 785-296-0781

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