A Striking Gap Between the Deaths of Black and White Babies Plagues the South


Bamberg, SC. — Years before Bamberg Deaths County Hospital closed in 20120. And the next closest hospital in neighboring Barnwell closed its doors in 2016. Those facilities stopped delivering babies. These days, 60 of these rural counties don’t even have an ultrasound machine. Miles south of Columbia, obstetricians are few and far between. Here are some options for caring for pregnant women.

qualified health centers in nearby Fairfax and Barnwell offer prenatal services.

But only when a pregnancy is uncomplicated and only through 34 weeks’ gestation.

In the final weeks of pregnancy. Women must transfer their Deaths care to the nearest obstetrician. Often in Orangeburg, which can be 20 miles or more away, depending on where they live in Bamberg County. Some women travel farther to hospitals in Aiken or Beaufort. Where health outcomes are better.

“Most of our women drive an hour or more from their home to see an OB provider.” Said Tracy Golden, doula and senior program. Manager for the South Carolina Office of Rural Health.

Although Orangeburg Regional Hospital delivers babies. Birth outcomes in the county are horrendous by any standard. In 2021, about 3% of all black children in Orangeburg County died before their 1st birthday. , the average is about 1% for black children and less than 0.5% for white children

Meanwhile, Orangeburg County’s infant. -Mortality rate is the highest in South Carolina for children of all races. According to the latest data released by the South Carolina.

Department of Health and Environmental Control.

By 2030, the federal government wants the infant mortality rate to drop to 5 or fewer deaths per 1,000 live births. According to annual data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control. And Prevention, 16 states, including Nevada. New York and California, have already met or exceeded that goal. But none of these states are in the South, which has the nation’s highest infant mortality rate. With Mississippi’s worst at 8.12 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Even in the few southern states. Where infant mortality rates approach the national average. The gap between black and white infant mortality rates is vast. For example, in Florida and North Carolina, black infant mortality rates are more. Than double those of white infants. A new study published in JAMA found that over two decades. Black people in the United States lost more than 1.6 million more deaths. And 80 million years of life because of increased risk of death compared to white Americans. The study also found that children and older. Black Americans suffer excess deaths and years lost.

That makes black infant mortality in the South a complex regional crisis.

That should alarm everyone, not expectant parents. Said Georgina Dukes-Harris, senior director of social care at Unite U, a national. Technology organization focused on social needs. Maternal and child birth outcomes are a key indicator of population well-being. And they run much deeper than health care: they reflect politics. They are a direct product of generations of poverty and racism. They reveal our priorities, says Dukes-Harris.

Often, babies die in situations that states, communities and parents can help control. Such as ensuring babies don’t suffocate in beds or unsafe cribs, or expanding health. Coverage so young women can see a doctor before they get pregnant. . In many of these the South is failing.

“It’s something that has to change,” Dukes-Harris said.

‘An Urgent Problem’ With No Easy Solution

Public health officials are still trying to analyze. The long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. But South Carolina’s infant mortality rate was higher than. The national average long before the health care landscape changed in 2020. And a report released by the South Carolina Department of Health. And Environmental Control in April showed that the rate of non-Hispanic black children . — Who died at about 2½ times the rate of non-Hispanic white children in South Carolina in 2021 — is getting worse. From 2017 to 2021, the death rate among infants born to black mothers in the state increased by 40%.

“This is unacceptable,” said Edward Simmer. Director of the South Carolina Department of Health. “This is an urgent issue to me.”

This is a problem, though, without an clear solution. A multimillion-dollar program to improve South.

Carolina’s numbers over the past decade has failed to move the needle.

To complicate matters, individual state agencies have reached. Different conclusions about the leading causes of infant mortality.

The state Department of Health and Human Services. — Which administers Medicaid, the health coverage program for low-income residents.

. One cause of death for children covered by Medicaid. from 2016 to 2021, according to Medicaid spokesman Jeff Leiritz.

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