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A New Look at an Old Problem

September 22, 2008

Last Friday I attended a health disparities forum at Sinclair Community College. Apparently the Ohio Office of Minority Health and Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County are collabortating to address health disparities at state and local levels. Good idea. I just hope that they acknowledge all the health disparities that exist, and work to address each of them. Traditionally, health disparities are considered to be those health conditions or diseases which disproportionately affect minorities and other disenfranchised groups. So that usually means heart disease, cancer, stroke, things like that. But what about abortion, infant mortality, domestic violence against pregnant women? These are not medical conditions in the truest sense of the word, but they are health-related, and each of them is having serious affects on and within the African-American population.

Nationally, African-American women represent about 13% of the total female population, but we have 35.5% of the abortions. Our babies die at a rate twice that of white infants, despite the implementation of programs and policies to address the situation. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that Black pregnant women are seven times more likely to be victims of homicide than a white woman who’s pregnant. And that rate skyrockets for African-American women ages 25-29: they are 29 times more likely to be murdered while pregnant than white mothers in the same age group. These numbers might surprise you if you get most of your ‘news’ and information from mass and prime-time media. Laci Petersen and Maria Lauterbach are two recent high-profile cases of white women who were killed by men while pregnant. But what about LaToyia, Jimella, and Dawna ? Our stories so often are not told, or told so sparingly that we become desensitized to how these issues are affecting us.

Abortion, black infant mortality, maternal domestic violence, low infant birthweight…these are all health disparities that need to move into the mainstream. Even more importantly, they need to be fixed. Our women are suffering and dying, and so are our babies. Get informed about these issues, then please find an organization where you live that works to address these health issues. Better yet, become your own organization. Start talking to your sisterfriends, your aunts, your cousins, and all the Black women in your life. If she’s smoking while she’s pregnant, hound her until she stops. If she’s headed to Banned Parenthood, or some other abortuary to take the life of her child, take her to your church, your job, your family reunion, wherever, to help her find someone who will assist her with the pregnancy, and after the baby’s born. If she gives birth to a premature baby, go to the hospital and talk to, rock, sing to, pray for, and speak life over that baby. In other words, WAKE UP, then STEP UP. If we don’t handle this, no one else will. Believe that.

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