New Report: Why The Black-White Infant Mortality Gap Exists and How To Eradicate It

Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Duke Today

"People tend to overlook the fact that racial discrimination has played a major role in the IMR gap between white and black infants," said Keisha L. Bentley-Edwards, co-author of the report. Bentley-Edwards is assistant professor of general internal medicine and director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center's Health Equity Working Group at Duke.

"Particularly for black women, despite age, educational attainment and socioeconomic status, the exposure to racial inequities and injustices throughout their life directly impact their birth outcome,” Bentley-Edwards said.

Because black women experience the highest infant mortality rates among any racial or ethnic group in the United States, the authors stress that to decrease the IMR, long-standing factors that promote these disparities must be addressed directly.

"It is estimated that the black IMR has been roughly twice that of the white IMR for over 35 years. It's time for policymakers to develop strategies that effectively reduce infant mortality — the price for stagnation is too high for black infants," said Imari Z. Smith, graduate research assistant at the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke.

There is a common perception that racial disparities in IMR are driven primarily by risky behaviors such as drinking alcohol, using illicit drugs and smoking cigarettes. However, the best available evidence does not support this assertion and illustrates that systemic barriers to positive birth outcomes warrant further investigation. 

Read the full article here.