Tarrant County taking steps to address high infant mortality rate

Tarrant County, Texas, community leaders are meeting Friday to discuss the county's high infant mortality rate, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

The county has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the state, and the rate among blacks in the county is about twice as high as it is for other ethnicities, according to Jerry Roberson, chair of the Infant Mortality Network. Several factors can contribute to infant mortality among blacks, such as the pregnant woman's health, stress level and limited access to health care services, the Star-Telegram reports.

State lawmakers last year passed a bill to address the issue (Jarvis, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 9/25). Under the bill, cities and counties have legal authority to create fetal and infant mortality review teams. The review teams are made up of physicians, nurses, social-service providers and other professionals who examine medical records and autopsies, as well as conduct interviews with affected families. The findings then will be combined with other data to help develop specific strategies to address the problem (Kaiser Health Disparities Report, 6/28/07).

Other efforts also aim to address the disparity. The Fort Worth/Dallas Birthing Project SisterFriend Program partners pregnant women with a volunteer who provides support, education and encouragement. The Aintie-Tia program provides support for high-risk women and disperses workers into the community to seek those in need of help. The March of Dimes also has a program specifically for black women -- Honey Child -- that is designed to be implemented in churches and run by church members.

Anne Salyer-Caldwell of the Tarrant County Public Health Department said, "We have the tools we need to help babies survive. The problem seems to be with the health of the mother." Josephine Fowler, a physician with the JPS Health Network, said, "Even if we change the factors, we're not going to see results next year. It is going to be several years" (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 9/25).

Kaisernetwork.orgThis article is republished with kind permission from our friends at The Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery of in-depth coverage of health policy developments, debates and discussions. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for Kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Copyright 2008 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.


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