A statistical summary published every year by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment shows a glimmer of progress last year on a long-standing health disparity between black and white Kansans—the death rate for babies in their first year of life. Heartland Health Monitor’s Bryan Thompson has details.
For more than 20 years, black babies have died at a much higher rate than white babies in Kansas. Some years, the difference has been three-fold. But the 2014 Summary of Vital Statistics from KDHE shows a drop of almost one-third in the black infant mortality rate.
Officials caution against reading too much into these figures, because the overall numbers are relatively small. J’Vonnah Maryman, who oversees fetal and infant mortality review at the Sedgwick County Health Department, says the five-year trend is also lower—but the battle isn’t won yet.
“There is still cause for concern," Maryman says. "Even though it’s decreasing, and that’s the way that we want it to go, the rate is still approximately 2.6 times higher than that of white non-Hispanic infants.”
Sedgwick County has a higher infant mortality rate than the state as a whole. Maryman says part of the problem is that too many pregnant women and young mothers lack health insurance. The health department’s efforts also focus on helping pregnant women stop smoking, and proper sleep positioning for babies.