Infant Mortality

Infant mortality is defined as the death of a baby before his or her first birthday. Incidents of infant mortality are twice as high among African-Americans as they are among whites. Houston Public Radio's Rod Rice reports on a community effort to keep more babies alive.

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High rates of infant mortality can be lowered if more people are better informed.

"Families, churches, civic clubs, public and medical health facilities, our elected officials, so that we can all than become educators."

Eulalia Gillium is the program manager of Sunny Futures Healthy Starts which works to reduce infant mortality in the Sunnyside, Third Ward and Fifth Ward communities. It is a project of Neighborhood Centers.

"I believe it takes education at every level, at every stage and age to address the issue. We like to believe that if people know better then they will do better."

In the case of infant mortality, doing better begins with pre-natal care. Too few African-American mothers with a lower economic status seem to understand the importance of pre-natal and post-natal care. Why is that the case? Walter Jones is with Neighborhood Centers, Inc.

"Conventional wisdom is suggesting to us that it's cultural and that it has not been something that has been significantly discussed within the families. There is a general casual attitude about that birth period, and we believe that it is just overwhelmingly uninformed."

Pre-natal care can help mitigate the conditions that may be contributors to infant mortality such as, poor education, lower economic status, single parent families, poor nutrition, stress and depression. Eulalia Gillium says one of the ways Healthy Start helps mothers is by assigning each a case manager who visits them in their home and initially conducts a psycho-social needs assessment.

"That assessment identifies any needs that the client might have. They may be in need of other resources that our case manager can make referrals, to or for, on their behalf. They facilitate initial depression screenings, and beyond that they are then referred for ongoing mental health services if there is a need for that. Depending on the risk level of the client, that then dictates how often a case manager will see them."

Gillium says Healthy Start has great success when mothers seek their help, but again, the initial contact only happens when someone somewhere along the lines knows the importance of pre-natal care.

"The reality is that babies are dying, in our city and in our communities. It is the mission of Sunny Futures Healthy Start to reduce infant mortality. Are we going to eradicate it? That would be grand day but we can not do that by ourselves, but it's our goal, it's why we get up and come to work everyday, to keep babies from dying and to help moms and to help families."

For more information on Sunny Futures and Neighborhood Centers you'll find a link at kuhf.org.

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