Infant Mortality Among Blacks in Riverside County Rose Over Decade Ending in 1997
Infant mortality rates among blacks in Riverside County increased over the 10-year period ending in 1997, according to a Riverside Press-Enterprise analysis of state Department of Health Services statistics. The Press-Enterprise studied infant mortality rates in Riverside and San Bernardino counties between 1988 and 1997, finding that infant mortality rates among blacks, Latinos and whites had declined overall, but the infant mortality rate among blacks in Riverside County had increased. Infant mortality rates among blacks in both counties were comparable in 1997 -- "slightly more" than 16 deaths per 1,000 live births -- but were "much higher" than the state average for blacks of 13.2. The findings have "confound[ed]" local health officials, who pointed out that studies on infant mortality among blacks have "met with few answers." The Press-Enterprise reports that studies comparing diets; use of cigarettes, alcohol and drugs; and prenatal care among black, white and Latino women during pregnancy "have not pinpointed the cause" of the differences in infant mortality rates among the groups. Dr. Bruce Smith of the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, said, "The bottom line is: We can't explain the majority of the problem. We know it's there, but the reasons why are still being sought." Riverside County Public Health Director Gary Feldman added that there is "no scientific explanation" for high infant mortality rates among blacks in general or for the increase in infant mortality rate in Riverside County. Feldman suggested that poverty and stress from "racism, real or imagined," may contribute to the problem, but he added that those factors are difficult to measure (Rom/Goad, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 8/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.