It’s not unusual to have a higher infant mortality rate for black infants since almost all states have racial disparities regarding that. However, the number is significantly higher in the state of Wisconsin. According to the data compiled by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, the rate of infant deaths for black babies is almost three times as high as white babies – the highest gap between black and white babies in the country.
“Plenty of states are twice as high and some are less than twice as high, so the picture there with the statistics is just not great. And that rate for Wisconsin is the highest we reported in the nation,” said T.J. Mathews, an NCHS demographer.
Wisconsin also had the highest infant mortality rate between 2013 and 2015 in the country for babies born to non-Hispanic black women at 14.3 deaths per 1,000 babies. At that time, the national average infant mortality rate is 11.1 for the same group.
“We do reports like this to bring public health issues to the attention of Americans,” Mathews added. “This is an important public health measurement and Wisconsin’s got some work to do.”
Different factors regarding the issue were focused on by those who wanted to really improve the health of pregnant women and babies in Wisconsin.
“I want to give hope to the communities that when they see the statistics, that yes the numbers are very alarming, we are being proactive though to address this issue in our communities,” said Gina Green-Harris, director of the Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families based in southeast Wisconsin.
One of the factors addressed by Lifecourse Initiative is the impact of daily life stress on pregnant women who don’t receive decent housing, employment, and healthcare.
“While we focus on healthy babies and moms, we also know it’s not just the result of nine months of pregnancy, but the entire lifespan leading up to her pregnancy and what does that look like,” Green-Harris added.
Each of the cities under Lifecourse Initiative has a priority. For example, Kenosha considers the mental health of African-American mothers and prenatal care at home.
“And then there are some follow up visits after delivery to check in with mom, check in with baby to make sure goings are going well,” Green-Harris said.
Milwaukee wants to focus on preventing premature birth. Racine, on the other hand, focuses on breastfeeding which is recommended to prevent illnesses on babies.
Aside from these efforts, Lifecourse Initiative also aims to eliminate the negative effects of racism on African-American mothers’ pregnancy. A recent study by NPR shows that even with decent housing, employment, and healthcare, the other effects of racism is as much as dangerous.
Though Wisconsin’s infant mortality rate for black infants is high between 2013 and 2015, the state’s overall rate of 5.92 is nearly proportional to the national overall rate of 5.89.