'We want to eliminate that disparity,' DPH director said.
The Delaware Healthy Mother and Infant Consortium and the Division of Public Health are investing in babies’ health. They presented $327,925 in grants to six community-based organizations that support mothers and families Dec. 10.
African American babies in Delaware are almost three times as likely to die before their first birthday than white babies, according to statistics from DPH.
The groups, such as the Delaware Multicultural and Civic Organization in Dover, will address social factors tied to root causes of infant mortality, like poverty, racism, access to health services, food insecurity, housing or job security.
“I know firsthand the challenges that women of color face during pregnancy,” Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown said. Not only has she seen disparities working as a nurse, but Minor-Brown said she had complications herself as a young mother and has supported a friend who gave birth to a stillborn baby at 37 weeks.
Minor-Brown said she doesn’t know why the baby didn’t survive, but “what I do know is [the mother] didn’t receive the education that she needed to be able to have a healthy pregnancy.”
For example, her friend was diagnosed with gestational diabetes but was never offered a nutritionist. Women with dietary restrictions struggle to stay healthy if they have limited access to healthy food, she said.
“If you’re living in a zip code where all you have is corner stores with chips and pretzels and salty foods and highly sugary foods and sodas, then what are we really doing to promote a healthy pregnancy, a healthy delivery, a healthy baby?” she said.
The six organizations that received grants are in areas where residents are at high risk for infant or maternal mortality. DPH used data like percentage of teen births, families on Medicaid, mothers with gestational diabetes and mothers with a preterm birth, etc.
The disparity extends to mothers. In the United States, black women die from pregnancy-related complications three to four times as often as white women, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Reproductive Health.
“These are hard numbers to change, but what we’ve realized is we have got to do things differently,” DPH director Dr. Karyl Rattay said. She listed access to housing, support for traumatized patients and educational and occupational services as a few social determinants of health that need to be addressed.
People already in the community can help build trust when tackling these, Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long said.
“In order to make a change at the doorstep, you have to have people who look like you in the community. These groups and organizations, they understand the community. They come in and people trust them,” she said.
The grants are for one year, but DPH and DHMIC may renew each grant for up to four more years as they review the organizations’ work annually.