(BLACK PR WIRE) — Despite a statewide decrease in deaths among children under 1 year old, the infant mortality rate in Miami-Dade County has crept upward, especially in black and Hispanic communities.  As one answer to the problem, Healthy Start Coalition of Miami-Dade will host a Community Health & Education Fair from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, at the Betty T. Ferguson Community Center, 3000 NW 199th St., Miami Gardens.

The fair will provide women with information and tips on caring for themselves, infants and toddlers up to age 5.

 A special program will begin at 11 a.m., when elected officials and community leaders will pledge commitment to supporting coalition’s services for mothers and children.

“Florida’s troubled economy has had a disproportionate effect on minorities,” Manuel Fermin, CEO of the coalition, said in a statement announcing the fair. “This is a large factor driving up the number of infant deaths in our community. By focusing on education and providing services at fairs like this, we aim to improve chances young families will stay healthy.”

While the infant mortality rate increase in Miami-Dade is slight — from 174 deaths in 2008 to 188 deaths in 2009 — child experts say the data are a cause for concern.

According to the Florida Department of Health’s Bureau of Vital Statistics, the number of deaths among babies described as “black or other races” rose from 77 in 2008 to 94 in 2009.  The numbers rose also for Hispanic babies. 

The alliance said throughout September, which is designated  National Infant Mortality Awareness Month, it will refocus on MomCare, Healthy Start and The Jasmine Project, key programs tackling the local infant mortality issue.

The Community Health & Education Fair will seek to reinvigorate community partners’ efforts to reduce infant mortality rates among minorities in Miami-Dade.  Highlights will include free health screenings, parenting and family engagement classes. Free car seats and child seat inspections will also be offered, along with baby supplies, pregnancy tests and bike helmets.

“Recently, there have been a number of statewide cuts to mother’s and children’s health programs. However, our efforts cannot stop. We must be even more focused to get the word out so we can impact as many mother’s lives as possible.  Let’s rally as a community to save our children,” Fermin said.