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Addressing African-American Infant Mortality: Using a Community Informed Approach

Feb 28, 2020 | by Alison Flater | Client Spotlight

In California, the rate of mortality among African-American infants continues to be two to four times higher than the rates for other groups statewide. Hitting close to home for our headquarters in San Diego, African-American infants are:

  • 1.3 times more likely to be born prematurely;
  • Greater than 1.5 times more likely to be born with a low birth weight; and
  • More than 1.5 times as likely to die during their first year of life compared to San Diego County infants overall.

Even more alarming is the fact that these disparities occur irrespective of protective factors such as income, education, and access to prenatal care. In other words, college-educated African-American women are more likely to give birth prematurely than white women who left school after high school graduation. Further assessment of the data also found that nationally, children born to African immigrants were larger and more likely to be born full-term. Yet, after two generations of residing in the U.S., their grandchildren were more likely to be born smaller and preterm—suggesting that ongoing differences in experience and bias are key factors contributing to higher rates of preterm birth and low birthweight. Recognizing rising infant mortality rates—and specifically, persistent higher rates of death among African-American infants—Governor Brown signed legislation in 2018 establishing the California Perinatal Equity Initiative (PEI) within the California Department of Public Health.

With prompt action and impact needed to reverse these alarming trends, Civilian was contracted to develop a community-driven awareness campaign for the Perinatal Equity Initiative in San Diego County. To inform campaign development and ensure relevant cultural insights were included, Civilian’s first step was conducting in-community dialogue sessions in the most impacted communities in collaboration with the African American Wellness Center for Children and Families and Hill & Company Communications—both leading local organizations. Through listening to the unique life experiences of a diverse array of women and men, we have started to create a campaign that will help improve maternal and infant health outcomes among African Americans in San Diego County.

We’re energized and inspired by this crucial work, but we have only just begun. Be on the lookout for the full campaign roll-out in July 2020.

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