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STUDY TO LOOK AT INFANT MORTALITY THE RATE IS DOWN AMONG BLACK BABIES IN DANE COUNTY.
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STUDY TO LOOK AT INFANT MORTALITY THE RATE IS DOWN AMONG BLACK BABIES IN DANE COUNTY.

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A new project will analyze how Dane County has tackled a major health problem in Wisconsin: a high rate of black babies who die before their first birthdays.

UW-Madison researchers and officials from the Madison-Dane County Health Department will use a $500,000 grant from the UW School of Medicine and Public Health to study the county's 70 percent decline, over a recent five-year period, in black infant mortality.

They'll also study the situation in Racine, where the black infant morality rate is four times higher, in hopes of improving the picture there and elsewhere in the state.

"We want to know what's happening among African-American women (in Dane County) that has allowed them to carry more of their babies to term," said Dr. Thomas Schlenker, director of the city-county health department, which will hold a news conference today to highlight the project.

The other main factor contributing to the positive trend in Dane County is that more at-risk babies are surviving stays in neonatal intensive care units, Schlenker said.

The project will interview 200 black women who have given birth here in recent years and analyze neonatal care at Meriter and St. Mary's hospitals to elicit lessons that might be applied elsewhere, Schlenker said.

The county's black infant mortality rate, which hovered around 19 deaths per 1,000 births until 2001, dropped to sixdeaths per 1,000 birth in 2002 to 2006. The state's rate of 17 deaths per 1,000 births is the highest in the country.

The grant is from the Wisconsin Partnership Program, a medical school fund established with money the state collected when Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Wisconsin became for-profit.

Other projects recently awarded grants by the fund involve antibiotic resistance, tissue banking, stem cells, smoking cessation among the Menominee Indian tribe, children's lead levels and iron deficiency in infants.

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