Tackling Infant Mortality Among Blacks

Black babies die at a higher rate in Pittsburgh than do infants in China or Mexico, the New York Times reports.

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Infant mortality rates in Allegheny County, Pa., which includes Pittsburgh, are higher than in China or Mexico, reports the New York Times, in an article that focuses on efforts to reduce the death rate.

The infant mortality rate in the United States has long been near the bottom of the world's industrialized countries. The nation's current mark -- 6.7 deaths per 1,000 live births -- places it 46th in the world, according to a ranking by the Central Intelligence Agency.

African-Americans fare far worse: Their rate of 13.3 deaths per 1,000 is almost double the national average and higher than Sri Lanka's.

Precisely why the black infant mortality rate is so high is a mystery that has eluded researchers even as the racial disparity continues to grow in cities like Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Boston.

In Pittsburgh, where the unemployment rate is well below the national average, the infant mortality rate for black residents of Allegheny County was 20.7 in 2009, a slight decrease from 21 in 2000 but still worse than the rates in China or Mexico. In the same period the rate among whites in the county decreased to 4 from 5.6 -- well below the national average, according to state statistics. Figures for the past two years, which are not yet available, have most likely increased the gap significantly, county health officials said.

While the causes may be complex, the failure to address this disparity up to now is simply explained. It wasn't affecting whites, said a health-center official, so no one really cared. Here's hoping that Healthy Start, a federally funded program, will find a way to give black babies a better chance of surviving their first year.

Read more at the New York Times.

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