In the United States, the infant mortality rate among black infants is 2.4 times higher than that of white infants, primarily due to preterm birth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The risk of preterm birth for black women is about 1.5 times the rate seen in white women, CDC reports show.
Each November, the March of Dimes celebrates Prematurity Awareness Month and World Prematurity Day on Nov. 17. It’s especially important for black women to be aware, as they are at higher risk of a preterm birth.
East Texas has the highest number of babies that die within their first year of life in the state, and this health service area–comprising 37 counties–has not seen improvements in the infant mortality rate since 2005, according to local health officials.
There are several factors attributed to the disparity between black and white infant mortality and preterm birth rates, including socioeconomic status, stress, and a lack of parity in health care access. However, it can’t always be explained, as black women who are educated and/or affluent are also at risk.
Northeast Texas Public Health District (NET Health) officials are helping to raise awareness about these issues through the work of the Healthy Me Healthy Babies Coalition, a collaboration of local businesses and organizations to promote the importance of mothers receiving prenatal care during the first trimester and delivering after 39 weeks.
“Mothers who participate in WIC have a greater chance of delivering a healthy full term baby due to nutrition education, medical referrals and nutritious food package,” said Tecora Smith, NET Health WIC director. “These services support mothers in achieving adequate weight gain and prenatal care during pregnancy.”
To support Go Purple for Preemies, NET Health officials are asking the public to wear purple on Thursday, Nov. 17, and to learn about steps they can take to help reduce the risk of premature births.