This is a picture of my daughter. Last month, we celebrated her first birthday! In between the party and getting used to the idea that my baby is walking and talking, I couldn’t help but reflect on how many children don’t reach this milestone.
Recent studies point to the cumulative effect of a lifetime of stress as a reason why women of color are more likely to experience poor birth outcomes.
As is probably obvious, my baby is white. Racial disparities in infant mortality are well-documented. Data suggests that these disparities are being driven by preterm births. In Cuyahoga County, the rate of very preterm births (less than 32 weeks gestation) for black, non-Hispanics, was more than three times that for white, non-Hispanics, and 82 percent of births before 22 weeks were to black non-Hispanic mothers. Recent studies point to the cumulative effect of a lifetime of stress as a reason why women of color are more likely to experience poor birth outcomes.
According to data from the Ohio Department of Health, more than 70 percent of the 128 babies who died before their first birthday in Cuyahoga County in 2016 were born premature, or at less than 37 weeks gestation. Many babies are born too early and never even leave the hospital. The moment she was born, at just more than 40 weeks, my daughter had already made it past a key marker of risk for infant mortality.
Clearly, the fight against infant mortality must begin well before birthdays – so more babies can reach the milestone my family got to celebrate.