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Mapping the problem of infant mortality
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Mapping the problem of infant mortality

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WIND POINT - People working to reduce the city's black infant mortality rate know stress contributes to poor birth outcomes, and on Friday they saw maps that showed what stressors are present in the neighborhoods with the most infant deaths.

Members of the Racine Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families on Friday got their first look at maps showing where in the city fetal and infant deaths have occurred in addition to information on things like income, violent crime, and contaminated waste sites.

The group, led by The Johnson Foundation and Racine/Kenosha Community Action Agency, met Friday morning at The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread, 33 E. 4 Mile Road.

Members come from local government, the health care and education fields, community service groups and the general public.

People gasped when they saw the violent crime and waste site maps. Both show clusters of dots, representing reported violent crimes and contaminated waste sites, overlapping or near the places where the most babies die.

"The threat of a neighborhood with violent crime creates stress for the people who live there," said Carole Johnson, director of local and regional community programs for The Johnson Foundation. "For the mothers, we're also talking about the environment in which they are trying to nurture their pregnancy and baby. When it's more violent, it's more difficult."

Stress is believed to be one of the major factors behind the disparity between fetal and infant mortality for blacks and whites. Locally, the black infant mortality rate is consistently one of the worst in the state, with black babies being several times more likely to die before their first birthday. The maps showed areas where babies died before their first birthday or fetal deaths after the start of the second trimester.

Samantha Perry, LIHF program coordinator, said violence in a neighborhood keeps a community from forming. People who live in violent neighborhoods can be less likely to offer or accept help, she said, because they are afraid of what could happen.

"There's less trust in the neighborhood," she said. "With fear, they're so much less likely to communicate with their neighbors. It's fear that I don't know what they're doing."

Members of the group will study the information in the maps and use it to help refine and target their messages as they move from the planning stage to the action stage in the coming year. For more information about the LIHF or how to get involved, contact Samantha Perry at (262) 637-8377.

These are two of the maps provided to the Racine Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families on Friday. These maps show where fetal and infant deaths occur in the city along with other information. The crime map shows incidents of violent crime along with income per person and fetal and infant deaths. The map of contaminated waste sites gives the location of the sites along with information about black population percentages and fetal and infant deaths. The maps were prepared for the Racine LIHF from a variety of information sources including the 2000 census, the Department of Natural Resources and Racine Police Department.

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