Linda Villarosa on Race and Infant Mortality

A black baby born in America is more than twice as likely to die as an infant than a white baby – a disparity that’s even wider than it was in 1850. Why is this happening, and how can it be changed? Journalist Linda Villarosa joins the program to discuss.

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Our health care system doesn't do as good a job as we could with mothers and babies and some of the assumption is that pregnancy is going to go well, but in many cases it doesn't go well.

But what I was very interested in was the racial disparity.

So why would this problem still be existing?

Why is it so much worse in our country than it is in other developed countries and why doesn't income and education protect against this problem.

So that's when I looked at it and when I first heard some of the statistics I actually thought it was wrong.

I argued back, I was like I this must be an international issue it doesn't happen in the United States but it's true, it's persistent and it's being you know has been going on for a long time.

So you mentioned the stats.

Let me just mention some them and then we can talk about them first the overarching issue that we mention the United States ranks 32nd out of 35 of the wealthiest nations when it comes to infant mortality and that we're told is driven primarily or largely by the death of black babies and then there is there are these statistics: 700 to 900 maternal deaths occur in the United States each year 50,000 potentially preventable near deaths.

Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes than their white counterparts.

Again you know you say that you saw some of these statistics were about you know much less developed, indeed underdeveloped countries around the world but they're happening in the United States.

Describe what you found out about race and the factor that it plays.

What I found out about race was twofold: one, that there's persistent inequality and discrimination in society which affects women's bodies.

So that has been looked at, it's hard to understand but it is real and there have been a lot of studies that examined that and second that within the healthcare system there is persistent discrimination and it became very real for us you know in general for us in society with what happened to Serena Williams.

So when she was pregnant with her daughter, went in to have the baby, she had a problem that had her not able to breathe.

She had a pulmonary embolism, but doctors at the hospital ignored her persistent complaints and this is a woman who has every access to health care, every access to the best health care and also a supreme knowledge of her own body.

So she almost died.

Thank God her baby is fine.

She's a year old, but why would that happen in this country.

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