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Study Aims To Fix High Minority Infant Mortality Rates

Infant mortality has been dropping in the United States; however, as a new study shows, some Utah babies are still more likely to die than others.

Jacob Fitisemanu, outreach director for the Office of Health Disparities at the Utah Department of Health, explained the study.

“The background behind this study was really looking at data from the past couple of years for infant mortality and some of those birth related outcomes,” said Fitisemanu said. “We looked at some of the… main differences between different population groups, and Pacific Islanders and African Americans rose to the top, unfortunately, for the highest rates—sometimes double the rate of other races and ethnicities in the state.”

After determining African American and Pacific Islander babies were significantly more likely to die before their first birthday, Fitisemanu said the researchers set out to find out why this is the case, and how they can fix it.

Researchers interviewed women from these communities who had birth complications and tried to determine which health and social factors may have contributed. Fitisemanu said lack of social support, access to health care and obesity were all possible factors. Now, the biggest focus of the study is on determining better ways to reach out to the communities with information on healthy pregnancies, Fitisemanu said.

“The important thing…was actually finding out ways, recommendations from these women, from these communities about the best ways to address [the problem]. And that was really the intent behind the report,” Fitisemanu said.

Task forces have been created and are composed of women from each of the high-risk communities. They act as liaisons, assisting the department in determining culturally-responsive ways to inform their communities about how to increase the likelihood of a healthy pregnancy. Fitisemanu said the department will continue monitoring the program’s progress and he hopes to see positive changes.