Public News Service: Racial Disparities Add to Tragedy of Infant Mortality Rates

September 18, 2023 10:53 am Published by

By Eric Tegethoff / September 14, 2023

September brings attention to an unfortunate and painful issue: infant deaths in the United States.

This month is Infant Mortality Awareness Month. The rate in Washington state is about 4.3 infant deaths per 1,000 births, lower than the national average of 5.5. However, racial disparities are prevalent across the nation.

Rokea Jones, community engagement specialist for Open Arms Perinatal Services in Seattle, said infant mortality is closely linked to maternal mortality, which is also higher than the average for people of color.

“For Washington state, Black and Indigenous infants are two to three times more likely to die than their white counterparts,” Jones reported.

Jones noted many of factors contribute to racial disparities but they must be tackled systemically.

She pointed out barriers within the hospital system itself also contribute to infant mortality rates and racial disparities.

“We’re talking about hospitals that are understaffed, meaning nurses that are overworked,” Jones explained. “Even the way a hospital is designed could have a huge effect on how much care one person in Room 2 that maybe is close to the nursing desk gets, versus another person down in Room 14.”

Open Arms provides doula services, which gained a big boost when the Washington state Legislature passed a bill allowing for state certification of doula services. Jones contended it will benefit birthing services in the state.

“I think programs like Open Arms are providing community health workers that naturally stand in the gaps,” Jones emphasized.


Listen to the original segment at Public News Service.