Health fair combats high Black infant mortality rate

admin | 9/28/2011, 7:31 a.m.

The lingering effects of the Great Recession has affected nearly every corner of American life. Local health officials believe the bleak economy is having another unforeseen consequence a rise in the rate of minority infant mortality. More Black babies are dying, said Manuel Fermin, CEO of the Healthy Start Coalition of Miami-Dade. To help decrease the number of Black infant deaths, the Healthy Start Coalition of Miami-Dade County recently sponsored a community health and education fair at the Betty T. Ferguson Community Center in Miami Gardens. By focusing on education and providing services at fairs like this, we aim to improve chances for young families to stay healthy, Fermin said. Blacks and other minorities historically have a higher infant mortality rate than whites. From 2008 to 2009, the number of Black infants who died rose from 77 to 94, according to the Florida Department of Healths Bureau of Vital Statistics. However, there is no definitive data about why there is racial disparity among infant deaths. Fermin believes the current economic turmoil is exacerbating the situation. Floridas troubled economy has had a disproportionate effect on minorities, driving up the number of infant deaths in those communities, he said. Studies have shown that stress caused by everything from hectic schedules and economic worries to unhealthy relationships can have detrimental effects on the life and health of the infant and on the mother. Mother-to-be Kim Walker Davis understands stress. Twenty-weeks pregnant with her first child, Davis, 26, is also juggling her duties as a student at Florida International University and working as a patient care technician. She agreed to participate in the healthy start initiative after her doctor noted that she was displaying many indicators of stress. "Everything I learned here [was] useful, she said. The fair provided information about health and wellness for mothers and their young children and also included free health screenings, parenting and family engagement classes and even car seats and child seat inspections. Anne Brumy,a social worker at the Jessie Trice Community Center's Healthy Start Program, managed a table promoting good dental hygiene. "I receive a lot of questions from mothers when they start taking their babies to the dentists and we explain to them that they have to clean their babies' mouth out before they go to bed," she said. The fair also provided information about Miami-Dade Countys resources and programs for mothers with children including MomCare, Healthy Start and the Jasmine Project, a federally-funded program aimed at reducing the number of infant mortality for native-born Blacks living in parts of Opa-locka, North Miami and Miami Gardens. To learn more about programs and resources available for mothers in Miami-Dade County, call 305-541-0210 or visit www.hscmd.org. By Kaila Heard kheard@miamitimesonline.com