While the disparities in infant mortality rates between minority and non-minority populations are improving, there’s still much work to do. The 2013 infant mortality rate for Hispanic mothers in Texas was 5.2 per 1,000 live births, making it equal to or less than the infant mortality rate for white women.
In contrast, the infant mortality rate for black mothers (11.6 per 1,000 births in 2013) is consistently twice as high as it is for white or Hispanic women. This high rate still exists despite a 16.2 percent decrease in the rate for black mothers over the past 10 years — the largest decrease among all race/ethnic groups in the state.
Prenatal care for everyone
According to the Office of Minority Health of the U.S. Health and Human Services Administration (HHS), African-American mothers, nationally, are 2.3 times as likely as non-Hispanic white mothers to begin prenatal care in the third trimester, or not receive prenatal care at all. Mexican-American mothers were 1.9 times as likely as non-Hispanic white mothers to begin prenatal care in the third trimester, or not receive any prenatal care.
Racial and ethnic minorities lag behind in terms of many measures of health outcomes, including:
- Likelihood to get preventative care
- Likelihood to receive proper care for serious illnesses (diabetes, heart disease, etc.)
- Access to quality health care
Healthy Texas Babies and Someday Starts Now hold, as central tenets, the belief that racial disparities in health outcomes for mothers and infants in Texas can be changed. DSHS has used the Life Course Perspective to frame this initiative. The Life Course Perspective is a way of looking at health as an interconnected continuum that starts even before one is born.
Experiences leading up to pregnancy play a greater role in pregnancy outcomes than the prenatal period in isolation. Factors not traditionally considered as “health conditions” — socio-economic status, education and literacy — also play a role in birth outcomes and highlight the disparities experienced by different racial groups. Learn more about the Life Course Perspective here.
The National Partnership for Action (NPA), an initiative of the HHS, was created to develop a sustained response to reduce these types of disparities. The NPA has collated an extensive listing of culturally sensitive resources that health care providers can access and share with their minority patients. These include educational materials on:
provider education on cultural competence
Providers have the opportunity to make a difference in preventing and eliminating racial disparities in health care. The National Center for Cultural Competence offers a variety of tools and training resources to enhance the cultural competence of practitioners. Learn more here.
Expand your understanding of health equity and removing barriers to care by following this learning path offered by Georgetown University’s Maternal and Child Health Library.
The following resource is a brief from the MCH Library on culturally competent services.
Better outcomes through breastfeeding
The importance of breastfeeding to a baby’s health is well established. Research shows that most women want to breastfeed. Unfortunately, they often stop when breastfeeding challenges overwhelm them. The prevalence of breastfeeding in the African-American community lags far behind white and Hispanic families.
Dr. Kimberly Avila Adams, MD, a pediatrician with the Austin Regional Clinic and past president of the Texas Pediatric Society, talks about how to broach this important and sensitive subject early on. She also outlines the steps providers can take to help all women follow through on their plans to breastfeed.
In Texas, the Center for the Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities works to address disproportionality and disparities in human services. The Office of Minority Health offers a variety of fact sheets related to infant mortality disparities.
For more information about the National Partnership for Action, its mission and additional resources, visit the NPA website.
Refer your patients to text4baby as a source of ongoing patient-directed education and referral to resources. Messages are free and available in both English and Spanish, as well as timed to the baby’s due date or birthday. Parents, grandparents, partners and other support people can sign up by texting “Baby” or “Bebe” for Spanish speakers to 511411. Messages continue through the baby’s first birthday.
Remember to use the My Health Priorities Patient Worksheet and the Life Planning Tool and Birth Plan to provide culturally sensitive, patient-centered care.
Our Men’s and Women’s Heath Tips card for Spanish-speaking audiences outlines simple tips for daily wellness.