3X More Likely
In Washtenaw County, black infants are three times more likely to die than white infants before their first birthday, and more than two times more likely to be born premature or low birth weight. Many of these deaths and preterm births are preventable by helping all women stay healthier during their childbearing years, whether they are currently pregnant or not.
The goal of the Washtenaw County Coalition for Infant Mortality Reduction is to reduce racial disparities in infant mortality and in low birth weight/premature delivery. As part of this effort, we are sponsoring 3X More Likely, an African American women’s health campaign. One of the components of the campaign is educating community members to help spread the word to women in the African American community about ways to prevent infant deaths and to keep themselves healthy.
What causes very low birth weight?
The primary cause of very low birth weight is premature birth (born before 37 weeks gestation). Very low birth weight babies are often born before 30 weeks of pregnancy. Being born early means a baby has less time in the mother's uterus to grow and gain weight. Much of a baby's weight is gained during the latter part of pregnancy.
Who is at risk for having a very low birth weight baby?
Any baby born prematurely is more likely to be very small. However, there are other factors that can also contribute to the risk of very low birth weight. These include:
- Race: African-American babies are twice as likely to have very low birth weight compared to Caucasian babies. Why? Medical researchers now suspect that a lifetime of chronic stress caused by racial discrimination can negatively impact pregnancy, as well as other health outcomes.
- Age: Teen mothers (especially those younger than 15 years old) have a much higher risk of having a baby with very low birth weight.
- Multiple births: Multiple birth babies are at an increased risk of very low birth weight because they often are premature. About 10 percent of twins and more than one-third of triplets have very low birth weight.
- Mother's health: Women who are exposed to drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes during pregnancy are more likely to have low or very low birth weight babies. Mothers of lower socioeconomic status are also more likely to have higher levels of stress, poorer pregnancy nutrition, inadequate prenatal care, and pregnancy complications - all factors that can contribute to very low birth weight.
For More Information:
- Kelly Stupple, Washtenaw County Public Health
- Washtenaw County Health Resources: List of local agencies and phone numbers to contact for assistance with a variety of health services, ranging from alcohol abuse, to emergency housing, to weight management.
- 3X More Likely Fact Sheet: A printer-friendly fact sheet of information on the 3X More Likely campaign.
- The Mystery of Black-White Infant Mortality: From the Washtenaw County Health Equity and Social Justice work group.
- A Healthy Baby Begins with You: The Office of Minority Health’s national campaign to reduce infant mortality.
- Healthy You Now: A website community and online bimonthly magazine dedicated to supporting women of color on their journey to achieve an optimal lifestyle of health and wellness.
- “When the Bough Breaks”: Episode from the PBS series Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?, available at the Ann Arbor District Library.
- Infant Mortality Statistics: Michigan Ddepartment of Community Health's Vital Records and Health Statistics.