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Date: Wed, 12 Aug 98 12:41:48 CDT
From: "Workers World" <ww@wwpublish.com>
Organization: WW Publishers
Subject: Death rates rise for Black newborns
Article: 41025
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.19892.19980813181528@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Aug.12, 1998 issue of Workers World newspaper

Racism in Action: Death rate rise for Black newborns in Maryland

By John Catalinotto, Worker's World 12 August 1998

Recently released infant-mortality records from Maryland show a shocking trend. The figures demonstrate how this country's racist system is literally a death sentence for the most oppressed.

In 1997 in Maryland, the death rate for Black babies increased 12 percent over the previous year--from 14.5 to 16.3 per 1,000 live births.

In the same year, mortality rates for white newborns decreased 10 percent--from 5.9 to 5.3 per 1,000.

Nothing shows more clearly the racial cleavage in the United States.

Aside from deaths caused by congenital birth defects, infant mortality is associated with premature and low-birth- weight babies. The frequency of infant deaths therefore reflects general social conditions. These include the diet and living conditions of pregnant women.

Infant mortality also reflects access to prenatal care, to provide both early diagnosis of potential problems and emergency intervention for vulnerable newborns.

A managed-care health system for Medicaid recipients was recently instituted. Some counties may have actually denied medical care to poor pregnant women. Maryland officials are asking whether this contributed to the increased infant deaths, according to the July 27 Washington Post.

The overall drop in the infant-mortality rate over the past decades is partly due to improved intensive care for premature and sick newborns. Lagging far behind are the prenatal care and social supports associated with improved pregnancy outcomes. So the babies die, and the infant- mortality rate in the Black community rises.

This is a crime.

The guilty parties are those in the government--starting with President Bill Clinton--who have cut programs like welfare that provided some support for poor women and their children; and they are those in the ruling class who profit from these continuing attacks.

Infant-mortality rates for the Black population have remained at least twice those for whites. This has always reflected the continuing racism and inequality in the United States.

That Black-white infant-mortality gap increased last year in Maryland is a warning sign of growing social inequality, despite the highly touted capitalist economic upturn. What will happen during a capitalist recession?

These statistics should constitute an alarm bell. And they should trigger immediate government action to improve nutrition and medical access for the poorest portion of the population.

Over the past 20 years, U.S. infant mortality rates had been dropping. Currently, the overall U.S. rate is about eight deaths per 1,000 live births. This is still far higher than the four in Japan, five in France and six in Canada and Germany.

In these other wealthy imperialist countries there is not nearly the income disparity between rich and poor there is in the United States. Also, the working class in those countries has won national health care for the entire population.

Even in socialist Cuba--a country with far less wealth than the United States and squeezed by the U.S. blockade-- the more equal social conditions and access to medical care there have reduced infant mortality to eight per 1,000-- compared to 12 per 1,000 in the U.S. colony of Puerto Rico.

The sign from Maryland is that social conditions in the United States--especially the results of racism--are worsening rather than improving.

(Copyright Workers World Service: Permission to reprint granted if source is cited. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail: ww@workers.org. For subscription info send message to: info@workers.org. Web: http://workers.org)