The National Center of Health Statistics found that the U.S. infant mortality rate declined 2% in 2006, after 5 years of remaining unchanged. This is great new for women and their families. The infant mortality rate is one the key indicators of the overall health of a country and lowering it is one the of Healthy People 2010 goals. But we still have a long way to go to reach that goal: At 6.71 death per 1,000 births, the rate would have to fall 50% to reach the 2010 goal of 4.5.
Underlying this good news is the stark reality that major reproductive health inequities still exist between white women and women of color. In 2005, Puerto Rican women had an infant mortality rate almost 1.5 times higher than white women. For black women the rate was 2.4 times higher than white women and for Native American and Alaskan Native women, it was 1.4 times higher.
The NCHS doesn’t report infant mortality differences by income or neighborhood, but other data indicate that the poorest neighborhoods, where Latinas are more likely to live, also have higher rates. In 2005 my south Bronx neighborhood, which is 73% Latino, had an infant mortality rate more than 3 times that of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, which is only 6% Latino and 83% white.
These data show that there is much work to do to eliminate the reproductive health inequities that Latinas and their families face. We can start by ensuring that all Latinas are able to get early and high quality prenatal and post natal care. This will require a better integration of all reproductive health services into regular primary care, a national health care plans that covers the entire range of reproductive health care services, and Latinas’ equitable access to the services, resources, and facilities that promote the healthiest pregnancies.
Contributed by Liza Fuentes, Senior Research Associate