Florida’s Infant Mortality Rate Among Minorities Increases
By Giulia Marsico
Florida’s Department of Health has recently released new figures to show that infant mortality among minorities has increased in the state of Florida and in Leon County.
According to the new information, the death rates among minorities increased from 4.4 to 4.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births for Hispanics and 10.6 to 11 infant deaths per 1,000 live births for Blacks.
“Our primary goal is to improve racial and ethnic disparities in infant mortality. As the overall infant mortality rate continues to decrease, our work will focus on empowering communities that have the highest infant mortality rate,” said Mara Burger, press secretary for the Florida Department of Health.
Burger added that these rates can vary from year to year. The aforementioned rates show the rate increases from 2013 to 2014. In all of Florida there were 1,327 infant deaths, which shows a rate of 6.0 per 1,000 live births. Of those deaths, 538 were Black – an increase of 21 additional deaths statewide among Black babies.
Likewise, in 2013, there were 261 deaths of Hispanic infants. In 2014, the number increased to 304.
Edward Holifield, M.D., CEO of the Tallahassee Initiative for Social Justice, spoke passionately about income inequality and how he believes it is one of the many leading factors behind the higher rate of infant mortalities in minority communities.
“The severe income inequality prevents families from having necessary resources, like health insurance. Black children in Florida have the highest incidents of children without health insurance. The city and the county need to make this a priority,” said Holifield.
As a result of the increase, the Florida Department of Health is launching a statewide initiative to help decrease disparities in infant mortalities.
The initiative, Florida’s Healthy Babies, is partnering up with local leaders, private businesses, universities and colleges, non-profit organizations and other public agencies to help bring improvements in health care that contribute to infant mortalities. The state office is also extending their reach to federal partners, Health Resources and Services Administration, and other national organizations.
“Looking at trend data over the past few years helps us understand whether these changes are significant; a significant downward trend is what we want to see,” said Burger.
Research has shown that social circumstances, physical environments and healthy behaviors have a large influence on birth outcomes.
Burger is aiming toward community discussions in Florida counties to help identify and implement programs and policies that will affect these social factors.