The lead of a recent New York Times article is grim: “Amanda Ralph is the kind of woman whose babies are prone to die. She is young and poor and dropped out of school after the ninth grade.”
The article asserts an ‘undeniable link’ between the young woman’s race and her baby’s susceptibility to infant mortality. Nationally the infant mortality rate among black babies is twice as high as it is among white babies.
In Pittsburgh – the focus point of the Times report – infant mortality rate among black babies is five times as high as the national average.
Here’s a rundown of some arresting statistics:
|Infant Mortality||Deaths per 1,000 births|
|Among black children||13.3|
|Among black children in Pittsburg||20.7|
This statistic casts a bleak shade over the cityscape and suggests nothing short of a public health crisis both in Pittsburgh and nationwide. Access to and availability of health care in Allegheny County, however, is particularly limited because such services in that county have undergone extensive privatization in recent years.
Doctors and healthcare providers struggle to pinpoint the cause of the disparity between the IMR of black children and that of their white counterparts, but many have said the issue stems from an inequity in health care access and is simply a basic breach of human rights.
In response, Healthy Start – a federally funded national nonprofit and community health provider – has stepped to the plate. Over the years, the group has become a de facto service provider for Pittsburgh’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged women. Healthy Start offers case management services, helps families monitor health and wellbeing of babies, and leads educational workshops on childbirth education, HIV/AIDS and other STD’s and substance abuse.
With such a comprehensive approach to family care and the health and civil rights of disadvantaged women, Healthy Start is tackling many of the same issues and targeting the same demographic as BYMC.
Representatives from Healthy Start, however, admit that their work does not focus on the long-term development of the young women, but rather on triaging day-to-day crises. This indicates a significant difference in the underlying mission and goals of BYMC and Healthy Start.
Integral to BYMC’s mission is a dedication to the empowerment of disadvantaged young mothers through education and professional achievement. Here at BYMC, we recognize education, employment and health go hand in hand and are all necessary in the development of a health family. Healthy Start’s work is, of course, invaluable and has improved the health of countless families in Pennsylvania, but comparing the health services they provide disadvantaged families face with the education and empowerment services BYMC provides points to two poles in addressing inequities in social services and human rights that low income families face.
Fusing these two approaches, as BYMC is endeavoring to do in Brooklyn, will undoubtedly pave the way for a brighter future for low-income families and is a model that should be replicated by community health providers in Pennsylvania, New York and nationwide.