DHS report on infant deaths reveals racial disparities
The reports showed the COVID-19 pandemic made these inequities worse.
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Wisconsin Department of Health Services released two new reports on infant deaths in the state while continuing to shed light on how to best reduce and address significant disparities on the issue.
The data shows troubling disparities with non-Hispanic Black infants being three times more likely to die before their first birthdays than non-Hispanic white infants. During those same years, the infant mortality rate for American Indian or Alaska Native infants was 1.5 times the rate for non-Hispanic white infants.
“This is definitely a continued health crisis that we need to have continued efforts surrounding. It’s going to take a comprehensive approach. There’s not just one answer,” DHS Chief Medical Officer for Maternal Health Dr. Jasmine Zapata said.
Additionally, the reports showed the COVID-19 pandemic made these inequities worse.
“Even before the pandemic, we were facing racial inequities in our maternal mortality outcomes, our infant mortality outcomes. It was already bad. We were already facing a lot of inequities, but big picture, the pandemic has worsened many of those things that were already in existence,” Dr. Zapata said.
As a result of the report, Zapata said DHS is going to have a renewed sense of urgency with its dedication for focusing on the inequities it sees. Zapata said “DHS has always been committed to this issue... We continue to be dedicated to this issue.”
She added the report helped DHS focus on what areas to prioritize, which Zapata said are doing all that we can to prevent low birth weight infants and to reduce Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID).
In a media availability on Thursday, Zapata highlighted the preventative measures that can be taken, which included increased funding for maternal and infant health programs, expanding access to high-quality health services, ensuring that everyone has culturally appropriate care, and addressing bias in our healthcare systems.
”So even if there is still one baby that dies and doesn’t survive, when we talk about infant mortality, it is more than just statistics, these are real lives and real families. One life gone is too many,” Dr. Zapata said.
She added two areas to focus on moving forward are prevention and raising awareness about the issue that predominately effects Black women.
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