Scope of infant mortality disparities in Allegheny County unacceptable

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ESTHER BUSH

This month’s issue on infant mortality is a continuation of the monthly series started last year focusing on health disparities in the Pittsburgh region. The series is a partnership among the New Pittsburgh Courier, Community PARTners (a core service of the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute—CTSI) and the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh. Jessica Griffin Burke, PhD, MHS, associate professor of behavioral and community health sciences at Pitt, sat down with Esther L. Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League, to talk about this month’s topic.
by Jessica Griffin Burke, PhD, MHS
JGB:  Ms. Bush, I know from working with you that issues related to infant and child health are very important to you. What are your thoughts about the topic this month?
EB: The numbers about the scope of the disparities in infant mortality in Allegheny County are staggering, overwhelming and, frankly, unacceptable. I’ve been in Pittsburgh for a long time; and, unfortunately, the entire time that I’ve been in this wonderful city those numbers have been the same. It’s time for us to work together, as a community, to do something to improve maternal health and to reduce poor pregnancy outcomes.
JGB: What can or should we do differently now to deal with this issue?
EB: As I said, we need to work together. That means that researchers need to work with community members to better understand the roots causes of these stark disparities. Dr. Dara Mendez’s work exploring how neighborhood context matters for health is very important. Where you live can definitely affect your health. Dr. Mendez’s work with the Birth Circle doulas and women gives us some clue about where to begin addressing issues related to how a neighborhood may contribute to low birth weight and preterm birth. The answer to reducing disparities in infant mortality likely lies in our ability to think creatively and to explore options that have not been considered until now.

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