September is Infant Mortality Awareness month and on Saturday, September 24, 2016, Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond and her supporters will walk from Seton Medical Center in Austin to The Dell Seton Medical School at the University of Texas to raise awareness of Black Infant Mortality. Why are we walking?
From 2000 to 2013, The National Vital Statistics Report shows the infant mortality rate (IMR) declined nationally, yet there remains a persistent 2—3 fold disparity in IMR of black infants compared to their white and hispanic counterparts. Texas follows this trend with an IMR of 5.8 overall in 2013. But looking at specific data from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services for 2013, while the overall IMR was 5.8 deaths per 1000 births, the IMR of black infants statewide was 11.9 deaths per 1000 births. The picture gets even gloomier if we look at Travis County. In 2012 (the last year for which data has been compiled) the IMR for black infants was 13.6 deaths per 1000 births, 2.85 times the death rate of white infants. In 2013, the disparity ratio for IMR of black infants to all infants in Texas was 3.02, or black infants are 3.02 times more likely to die before their first birthday than infants of other races here in Travis County.
Austin/Travis County is the state capital and one of the wealthiest counties in the state. Yet since 2000 Austin/Travis County has failed in its attempts to improve birth outcomes and survival rates for black infants to match those of infants of other races. The IMR for 2013 actually represents an increase in IMR from previous data.
The Call to Action
We believe that an IMR of 6.0 deaths per 1000 or less is attainable for black infants in Travis County, just as it has been attained for infants of other races. Here are 6 steps we could initiate to make this possible:
- Strongly encourage the Texas Legislature to take the Medicaid Expansion funds allotted for the state by the Affordable Care Act. This alone would insure another 1.3 million Texans, many of them women and infants, and give more access to comprehensive prenatal care, post natal and pediatric care.
- Work to increase the number of black health care providers (physicians, nurses, midwives, lactation consultants, childbirth educators and community health workers) in Austin/Travis County.
- Include members of the black community in the conversation about Place Based health initiatives and new treatments (like 17P for the prevention of preterm labor) so that they can make informed decisions about their health care, help educate members of the community and increase utilization.
- An aggressive community outreach campaign which includes community gatherings for conversations, presentations at churches and other community venues and even door to door health information and health education efforts by members of the community.
- Educate and elevate. Black citizens in Travis County are not looking for a handout, but a hand up. When information is presented in a clear and understandable way, people are more receptive, more apt to listen and more likely to act.
- Support initiatives that will help restore the infrastructure in the black community such as improved schools, jobs, affordable housing, safe and affordable childcare, additional security, public transportation and grocery stores.
What are you doing to raise awareness about Black Infant Mortality? Share your thoughts and events in our comments section below.
For more information about our walk or to get involved, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The National Vital Statistics Report, Volume 64, Number 9. August 6, 2015
The Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, Infant Mortality for the State of Texas and Travis County
There is no more crushing blow to a mama than the realization that the little one she has been carrying-even if only for a few weeks as had been the case for me-is gone. With the loss of that little soul also comes the loss of hopes and dreams not only for that little one, but also for the entire family into which that little one was to be born.
That loss happened 10 years ago. I had my first miscarriage on June 25 2001, a year before the birth of my daughter. I think of those souls often, and wonder, “What would you have been like?” Would you have been boys or a girls? Who would you look like, me or your father? What kind of personalities would you have? Sometimes I just give into, “What if?”
And yet, I know if the baby I “lost” on November 1, 2004 had lived, I would not have my now 8 year old son, the little guy who just makes my heart full and who can zing me with his uncanny perception of the truth and his quick wit. If I had had the baby I lost on June 25, 2001, I would not have my daughter. I may not have experienced that trials and tribulations that I experienced having her which ultimately have lead to the “birth” of Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond.
Both of my children are my greatest blessings. I truly cannot imagine my life without them in it. Yet it wasn’t an easy path to get them here. Several people have asked me over the years if I had to do it again, knowing my path to parenthood, would I do it again? I have to honestly answer, I don’t know. I know that I definitely would want to have my children, but, weenie that I am, I don’t know if I could knowingly go that path to getting them here again.
Mamas on Bedrest, each of you will travel a unique path and have an exquisite story to tell about how you came to be a mama and how you brought your baby into this world. For some of you, this path may be so overwhelming that you don’t trod it ever again. No worries and no judgement. Other mamas will go on to have other children, sometimes going back on bed rest, sometimes progressing just fine without life restriction. Some of you will go on to write books, start businesses, start non-profit organizations or do some other sort of humanitarian work as a result of your pregnancy and birth experiences.
It’s all good. It’s all perfect. Everything is as it should be. That is what I have learned over the years. While I still get a tiny sting in my heart when I think of the souls that moved on so quickly, I also smile and thank the Gods above for the delightful and dynamic souls that I live with each day. I learn so much from ALL my children. From those with me I learn patience and to not take myself so seriously. I also learn humility as they are often quick to point out my faults or mirror them back to me.
From those that have gone on, I have learned that life goes on. I will always remember them and for me, I honor them by serving other mamas and babies. Their gift to me is my service to you, to ensure to the best of my ability that each mama has the support and resources she needs to safely and successfully deliver a healthy baby. I thank you all for allowing me to honor my children.
Good Monday Morning, Mamas!
When it comes to someone who is grieving, silence is golden and less can definitely can be more. As I told you last week, a friend lost her 20 something daughter and it has sent me and the women in my women’s group into a tailspin. We have been consumed by how we can help her, what can we possibly do to make this time better for her. The truth is, there is really nothing that we can do to make this time better for her. It sucks and will likely suck for a really long time-likely forever. But Regena Thomashaur, the infamous Mama Gena of the School of Womanly Arts, offered an excellent article published in the New York Times by David Brooks. I strongly encourage you to read this article, tuck it away and refer to it when someone you love is grieving, or, and I hope this doesn’t happen to any of you, in the event that you encounter a loss. Here are the highlights:
Do Be There: So often people think that the grieving familly needs space. Nothing could be further from the truth! Coming and sitting with someone who is grieving (or in despair on bed rest!!) is so comforting. You don’t need to say anything. You don’t have to have any answers. Your presence is your present. Please share this priceless gift!!
Don’t Compare-Ever! Grief is not a game of tit for tat or one upmanship. The events your are witnessing are very profound for the person who is experiencing them. You may empathize, and you may have an equally profound experience. But allow your loved one to have their experience, simply be a witness to their experience and their journey.
Bring Soup-You may not know what to say, but if you notice something that can be done, do it! Dishes need washing? Wash them. Groceries needed? Get a list and go grocery shopping. Anything that you can do will be appreciated, and many times its those subtle, non-verbal expressions of love and support that have the most impact and are never forgotten.
Don’t Say You’ll Get Over It!-When someone suffers a devasting loss, they will never get over it! They will forever be changed by the event. They will move on from it, they will learn to live with the results of the event. But they will never get over it. Respect that your loved one is forever changed and that they will develop a new “normal” to which both you and they will have to adapt.
Be a Builder-This is quite possibly my favorite suggestion of all of the suggestions in this article. When a catastrophic event happens, everyone rushes in and wants to help. After the immediate surge of activity; the initial loss and the ceremonies that ensue, the family is still left with grief and sorry. It is then, after all of the “appropriate” steps have been taken, after all the socially and morally correct displays of grief, sorrow and comfort have been displayed, that the family is often left to fend for themselves. In this article, David Brooks refers to these people as “Fire Fighters”. They rush in at the time of crisis, provide emergency assistance and are then on their way. A “Builder” is someone who is there long after the intial emergency response. They stay for as long as it takes for the family to get back on their feet and they move along with the family as they establish a new “normal”. Builders are needed as much if not more than “emergency responders.”
Don’t say, “It’s all for the best” or try to make sense out of the situation-When I had my second miscarriage, I recall someone saying to me, “Well, it’s probably for the best. This baby wasn’t developing well and probably would have had a lot of problems.” Really?? I know many parents of special needs children and while it is a daily struggle, I don’t know of any of them who would rather be without their child. But this is not the point (except to say that this is a totally absurd thing to say!). When tragedies strike, don’t try to lighten the impact or make sense of it. It hurts and that is all there is to it! It’s not for the best, it simply happened. Be with the family in the moment.
I want to emphasize that this is an amazing list of very useful tips for dealing with those loved ones going through the grieving process. It is my sincerest hope that none of you mamas ever has to share this list with loved ones as they are trying to comfort you, but I do hope that when you go to comfort another-and life is such that you will be called on to comfort another-you have some really useful tools to guide you as to what to do. Be well mamas!!