Monday, April 16, 2018

Another problem for African-Americans

Black infants in America are more than twice as likely to die as white infants — 11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data. This is not a new phenomenon.  We first began keeping records of infant deaths by race in 1850. That year, the reported black infant-mortality rate was 340 per 1,000; the white rate was 217 per 1,000.  The overall rate has plummeted since then, but it's still bad for black babies; 11.3 deaths per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies.

Our overall rate is getting worse when compared with other developed countries. In 1960, we were ranked 12th among developed countries in infant mortality. Since then, with its rate largely driven by the deaths of black babies, the United States has fallen behind and now ranks 32nd out of the 35 wealthiest nations. Low birth weight is a key factor in infant death, and a new report released in March by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin suggests that the number of low-birth-weight babies born in the United States — also driven by the data for black babies — has inched up for the first time in a decade. Mothers also die. We are one of only 13 countries in the world where the rate of maternal mortality — the death of a woman related to pregnancy or childbirth up to a year after the end of pregnancy — is now worse than it was 25 years ago. The CDC has found that black women are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes as their white counterparts.

The question is why black women are more affected. Medical studies have led experts to believe that the cause is an inescapable atmosphere of societal and systemic racism that creates a kind of toxic physiological stress, resulting in conditions that lead directly to higher rates of infant and maternal death. And that societal racism is further expressed in a pervasive, longstanding racial bias in health care — including the dismissal of legitimate concerns and symptoms — that can help explain poor birth outcomes even in the case of black women with the most advantages.

The National Academy of Sciences found that people of color were less likely to be given appropriate medications for heart disease, or to undergo coronary bypass surgery, and received kidney dialysis and transplants less frequently than white people, which resulted in higher death rates. Black people were 3.6 times as likely as white people to have their legs and feet amputated as a result of diabetes, even when all other factors were equal. One study analyzed in the report found that cesarean sections were 40 percent more likely among black women compared with white women. 

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