Benton Harbor has the highest death rate in the state; health officials plan not to attack problem. Berrien county health department will do nothing to reduce the death rate of black infants.
Benton Harbor has the highest rate of African-American infant deaths in the state. Approximately 85 percent of those deaths occured among babies born to Benton township residents.
At the same time, the county`s death rate of children less than 1 year old declined for whites. The gap between the two has widened since 1995. From 1997-1999, 21.7 of every 1000 African-American babies born in Berrien County died before their first birthday compared to 5.5 of every 1,000 white babies.
We want to create an awareness among health providers of the huge disparity in infant death in Berrien County.
In Berrien County the death rate for children of all races went down to its lowest point in the decade in 1994.
There was a rise in 1995,but the rate for African-American babies went up.
How much is enough? How large does the gap have to be before we act? Why can`t we live in a community where African-American and white babies have an equal opportunity to survive to their first birthdays? In the data I studied, black babies were twice as likely as white babies to weigh less than 5 pounds 9 ounces at birth. Weight defines a low birth weight baby.
Twice as many white mothers as black mothers received adequate parental care, defined by the stage in pregnancy at the first medical visit.
The average age of Afican-American first time mothers was 22.7years; the average age of white first time mother was 26.4 years. However, a very large number of black mothers were teen-agers.
Pinkney calls on health care professionals to analyze information they have on where and when prenatal and infant health services are provided, who provided those services and what is missing from our recipe. Why can`t we live in a community where African-American and white babies have equal opportunity to survive to their first birthdays?