CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - First Year Cleveland, an organization committed to reducing the infant mortality rate of African American babies in Cuyahoga County, is encouraged by the efforts of Cuyahoga County Council to declare racism as a public health crisis.
Katrice Cain, First Year Cleveland’s racial disparities program director, sees the move by council as a start to lowering infant mortality rates in the African American community.
“Specifically saying that racism is a public health crisis is acknowledging the fact that racism is a contributing factor, an underlying factor, of why our Black babies are dying,” she said.
According to Dr. Arthur James, the medical advisor for First Year Cleveland, Black babies in the United States, before they reach the age of 1, die at twice the rate of white babies, and the rate is 3 times higher in the state of Ohio.
As we get closer to home, Dr. James said those numbers get even worse, in Cuyahoga County Black babies die at a rate four times higher than white babies, and in the city of Cleveland that number is 7 times higher.
And those numbers, Dr. James said, are representative of all African Americans including those with substantial incomes, higher education and quality medical care.
“We are going to have to seriously address social determinants across the board understanding that racism is one of those social determinants,” he said.
Racism, Cain and Dr. Edwards agreed, has negatively affected the health and well being of the African American community, which has led to a higher infant mortality rate of Black babies.
“Once we have that further understanding of racism and its impact on overall health and well being of our community we can figure out what systemic changes need to take place,” Cain said.
Cuyahoga Council agreed to send the resolution, defining racism as a public health crisis, to the council’s Health and Equity Committee.
Strategic and intentional work, Cain and Dr. Edwards said, should be the next steps to reducing infant mortality rates.
“A very important first step is for our local community to take ownership for those numbers, for those results,” Dr. Edwards said.
“Infant mortality really is the indicator of the health and wellness of a community,” Cain added.
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish has directed the Equity Commission to review the resolution and provide recommendations to eliminate racial disparities in the community.