Tonya Lewis Lee has an uncomfortable statistic to share–the United States ranks 29th among industrialized nations in infant mortality.
She lets that unpleasant news hang in the air for a second, probably because she wants everyone, from world health agencies to governments to corporations to parents, to be so uncomfortable that they want to do something about it.
The state of health of women and babies, said Lee, resonates not just through the African-American community, which she serves as the spokeswoman for A Healthy Baby Begins With You, an initiative of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, but throughout the country.
The goal of A Healthy Baby Begins With You, which began in 2007, is to increase the awareness and prevention of infant mortality, particularly in the African-American and minority communities. That crisis is seen locally as well–in 2009, the infant mortality rate overall in Palm Beach County was 6.1 deaths per every 1,000, but 10.9 deaths per 1,000 for African-Americans.
“People are surprised by that, and assume that we’re talking about poor people. But it reflects all economic levels,” she said. “The most well-to-do black woman is more likely to deal with infant mortality than the poorest white woman. It’s part of the stress of being a black woman in this country.”
INFANT DEATH: A GRIM PICTURE
The U.S. ranks 29th among industrialized nations in infant mortality.
In 2007, the infant mortality rate in Palm Beach County was 8.7 deaths per 1,000, but was 13.2 per 1,000 for African-Americans.
In 2009, the infant mortality rate for PBC per 1,000 births fell to 6.1 overall, and 10.9 percent for African-Americans.