So today is the last day of Infant Mortality Awareness Month. While I understand the purpose of the “month thing,” I really hate the whole concept of creating a month about a topic that is so vitally important. Let me remind you, in case there is any confusion, infants don’t just die in September. As I have mentioned in a previous post, infant mortality is a daily crisis. In fact approximately 76 babies will die today before reaching their first birthday.
It’s a sad reality and one that many are fighting on all fronts. We have a long way to go in this country as it relates to saving the lives of babies. In the African American community our road is longer and filled with speed bumps, obstacles, and detours. While the national infant mortality rate is 6.8 meaning almost 7 babies die per 1,000 live births in the African American Community the rates are even higher at 12.2 babies per 1,000 live births. The primary cause of infant mortality in the African American community is prematurity and low birth weight.
To date, many of the efforts and research to combat Infant Mortality are focused on the mother. We look at the age, race, socioeconomic status, and educational attainment of the mother. We look at the numbers of prenatal visits and the preconception care the mother has had. We look at her chronic conditions, her health behaviors and in general we examine all things female. While all of those things are important, we often overlook the very VITAL role of the fathers. In order for us to win the fight against Infant Mortality we need to include ALL persons involved.
“In May 2007, the Office of Minority Health (OMH), of the Department of Health and Human Services launched A Healthy Baby Begins with You – a national campaign to raise awareness about infant mortality with an emphasis on the African American community.” This year the Office of Minority Health decided to bring some testosterone to the fight with a focus on the father.
If you are a man, you MUST understand that your role is vital. We NEED you in our families, we NEED your support, we NEED your love, we NEED you to get informed and get involved. We need you to talk to your sisters, your lovers, your brothers, your fathers, your boys, your sons. Your involvement is CRUCIAL! Yes if there was every any doubt in your mind… We NEED YOU BLACK MAN!! We need your strength, your wisdom, your guidance. We need everything positive that you posses to bring attention to this crisis and to help eliminate the disparities.
The love, the attention, the pampering, the support that a man gives a woman as she is carrying his child is unmistakable, irreplaceable, and has been shown to be protective as he helps create a healthy womb. The love, attention, pampering and support that a man gives to a woman and their newborn baby during the early days of life have been shown to be protective as he helps create a healthy living environment. Women who have support from their man are more likely to carry full term and have a healthy weight baby. With the right support women are more likely to breastfeed and have more success with breast feeding. (YES men BREAST are for FEEDING babies!!.) All of these things are beneficial to our babies and can help decrease infant mortality in our communities.
Harmful words, physical abuse, personal poor health choices, leaving your woman and infant with feelings of abandonment and insecurity all contribute to the deplorable infant mortality rates in our communities.
BLACK MEN… Our babies need you, our women need you. I need you to help with this battle. I… We… She… can’t do it alone. PLEASE for the life of our babies… Stand up and get involved!
I know we don’t like to talk about Infant Mortality for many reasons. Some of the reason includes our inability to talk about the pain. BLACK MEN…. I want to encourage you to share your stores. For a variety of reasons, masculinity in our society has come to mean men can’t express pain especially emotional pain. To every man who has lost a baby who lives on in your spirit I salute you and embrace you with love. While I don’t know the pain of a father I do know the pain of losing an infant and I know it’s hard. Help the next brother, the next mother, the next baby.
Being silent about your pain contributes to the continuation of the epidemic of infant mortality in our community. We ALL have to speak up and get involved. I salute your strength and your power and encourage you to share your stories. Your silence does not help anyone or anything. Your voice can help us be victorious.
In Birth and Love