Black babies are dying in Omaha.
That’s the simple, straightforward message the group of about 40 people — most of them black women — had to work with.
Kathy Trotter, Thelma Sims and Gail Ross, pictured from left, are working to get the word out about the high infant mortality rate among blacks in Omaha. The three have been trained as community health advocates as part of a program affiliated with the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Their assignment was to take 10 minutes to come up with a way of spreading that message to the people who need to hear it.
The fact that the infant mortality rate is high among blacks in Omaha was no surprise to many of those at a community forum earlier this week at the Turning Point campus in north Omaha. That for every 1,000 black babies born in Douglas County, more than 14 will die in their first 12 months.
Or that the rate is three times higher than the county’s white infant mortality rate: 4.7 deaths per 1,000 babies.
But a Douglas County Health Department map showing that the highest concentration of baby deaths was near 33rd and Lake Streets, in the area around Salem Baptist Church, surprised Thelma Sims, director of the Salem Children’s Center.
Sims first saw the map about a month and a half ago.
“I was really devastated and sad,” she said.
She lives and works in the area but hadn’t known that from 2005 through 2009 the neighborhood’s infant mortality rate was 27 to 33 deaths per 1,000 births — in the range of the rates seen in Indonesia, Zimbabwe and Kyrgyzstan.
Rates are harder to grasp than actual numbers, so when looking at the state’s vital statistics for 2005-2010, for example, you find that 113 black infants died in Douglas County during that period.
Of those, the leading causes of death were listed as sudden infant death syndrome, 21; maternal complications of pregnancy, 20; prematurity, 16; and birth defect, 14.
Sims is one of three well-connected local black women who have been trained as community health advocates as part of the Connections Project, which is overseen by the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Sims, Kathy Trotter and Gail Ross are charged with getting the word out about high infant mortality rates, preterm births and low birth-weight babies; helping to find solutions to the problems; and, in general, being role models to young moms. They also will serve as moderators for three more community forums over the next several months.
Source: Omaha World Herald | Bob Glissmann