March of Dimes commemorates Black History Month
Seeks to raise awareness about racial disparities in preterm birth in Florida
MAITLAND, FL — In honor of February as Black History Month, an annual celebration of the rich history, culture and contributions of the African-American community, the March of Dimes – the leader in mom and baby health – is raising awareness about the alarming disparity in prematurity rates between Black infants and those of other races.
According to the 2015 March of Dimes Florida Premature Birth Report Card, released in November, the preterm birth rate (all live births less than 37 completed weeks gestation) was highest among Black infants at 13.4 percent, followed by Native Americans, 10.1 percent; whites, 9.3 percent; Asians, 9.3 percent; and Hispanics, 9.1 percent. Racial and ethnic disparities also occur in other birth outcomes, such as low birthweight and infant mortality. In 2014, Black infant deaths accounted for 40 percent of all infant deaths in Florida, as noted in the Florida Charts maintained by the Florida Department of Health.
“Black History Month is a great opportunity to highlight the significant prematurity rates among the African-American community, but this truly is a concern of ours year-round,” said Dr. Karen Harris, Chair of the Program Services Committee for the Florida Chapter of the March of Dimes. “There are no definitive explanations as to why prematurity affects this group more often than others. However, factors such as poor prenatal care, malnutrition, socioeconomic status, genetics, stress, and unhealthy habits might all contribute to the staggering data.”
According to the most recent Health Disparities and Inequalities Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the years 2006 to 2010 the preterm birth rate for black infants de-creased by 8 percent; however, it still remained approximately 60 percent higher than that of white infants. The CDC also reports that Black infants have had the highest risk for preterm birth since at least 1981, the year when comparable data on gestational age became avail-able.
In 2015, the March of Dimes unveiled a plan to focus more attention and resources on high population and/or high-burden areas with the goal of reducing the nation’s preterm birth rate to 5.5 percent by 2030. The “Prematurity Campaign Roadmap”, presented by former US Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin, outlines specific interventions health care providers and officials can take to prevent preterm birth.
March of Dimes Florida Chapter is involved with many organizations that target minority groups, such as the African-American fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc. and its sister sorority Zeta Phi Beta, Inc., whose Stork’s Next program seeks to increase the prevention of birth defects and infant mortality among Black women and to promote healthy behaviors during pregnancy.
About the March of Dimes
The March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. For more than 75 years, moms and babies have benefited from March of Dimes research, education, vaccines, and breakthroughs. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.org or nacersano.org. Find us on Facebook at @marchofdimesflorida, Twitter at @marchofdimesfl, and Instagram at @marchofdimesflorida.