mortalityposter_fc.jpgLAUDERHILL – Several Broward County health agencies this week combined forces to bring attention to the disparity between black and white infant deaths.

The rate for Broward County black infant deaths per thousand live births is twice that for white infants, said Cindy Arenberg Seltzer, president/CEO of Children’s Services Council, which collects property tax money for services on behalf of children.

Broward Healthy Start Coalition, Inc., the lead organization charged with eliminating the black-white infant mortality discrepancy in Broward, held a press conference on April 14 at the Central Broward Regional Park Field House Hall.

In an opening statement, Donna Sogegian, executive director of the Coalition, said the press conference served as follow-up to a call for action event held on April 4 that sought to bring attention to the issue of black infant mortality.

The infant mortality rate for blacks to whites was 11.6 per 1,000 live births, compared to 5.4 per 1,000 live births, according to The Fetal Infant Mortality Report Project.

The project, conducted from January 2004 through December 2006, reviewed 336 fetal and infant deaths in the county from Florida Vital Statistics reports.

Autopsies were performed on over 300 babies to determine why they had died.

The Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Broward County, which forges partnerships between medical professionals and social service professionals, analyzed the data, Arenberg Seltzer said.

“Forty percent of the deaths were preventable through prenatal care and disease prevention,” Arenberg Seltzer said.

In a separate interview with the South Florida Times, she said, “The importance of the autopsies performed in the Pediatric Autopsy Project was the discovery that often times the cause of death listed on the death certificate was incorrect, thus the additional information found will allow better targeted intervention to prevent the deaths from occurring.”

Governor Charlie Crist appropriated $1 million in June 2007 to the Florida Department of Health.

“House Bill 1269 created BIHP,” referring to the Black Infant Health Practice Initiative, said Ethel Edwards, assistant community health nursing director for the
Broward County Health Department. “Seven other counties in the State of Florida were chosen with Broward County. These counties were more adversely affected with black infant mortality.”

The Healthy Start Coalition receives localized funding to address the problem.

“Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies was contracted to provide data,” said Edwards, who is also a board member of the organization.

Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies will also conduct the qualitative research for the initiative, and will begin conducting focus groups this month.

“African American, Jamaican and Haitian women will be spoken to in select locations,” said Edwards, regarding the focus group discussions where women who meet certain prescreened qualifications will be able to share their experiences on the topic.’’

Focus groups will be conducted in areas with the highest incidents of fetal and infant mortality.

Pompano Beach, Hollywood, Miramar, Coral Springs and Pembroke Pines, among other cities, are slated for focus groups. Refreshments and gift cards will be provided for participants.

Free services are available to determine risk factors, and are not based on socioeconomic background, said Marcia Bynoe, director of health education services for Broward County Public Schools.

Screenings, outreach, nutritional counseling and focus groups are among the services available.

“The school board is looking at teen parents who are repeat teen parents,” said Bynoe. “The school board is dedicated to enhancing this program.”

The community can also help with correcting the black infant mortality rate in the county, organizers said.

Community members can spread the word about the free services that are available, join one of the community forums on black infant mortality, determine what employers can do to impact parenting via  human resource offices, and advocate for affordable health coverage.

“Commitments were made by a lot of institutions,” said Arenberg Seltzer of Children Services Council. “Black fraternities, sororities, and religious institutions have committed to talk to our children about STDs and getting the message into the communities.”

For additional information on the Broward Healthy Start Coalition, Inc., visit or call 954-563-7583. For additional information on joining a focus group, contact Michelle Reese, infant mortality program manager, at 954-765-0550, x 328.

Photo: A poster at a press conference seeks to bring attention to high black infant mortality rates.