Published: December 08. 2010 in the Tallahassee Democrat
Public health issues, such as infant mortality rates (IMR), cannot be explained away with personal anecdotes. The health of a community cannot be reduced to the hundreds of separate decisions an individual makes in a lifetime. Numerous factors — policies and trends often beyond the control of the individual — contribute to racial health disparities in America.
It's hard to imagine how abuse of Medicaid by poor black mothers could be one of them. Less than a year's worth of free insurance seems an unlikely motivation for pregnancy. The Office of Minority Health reports that even when IMR is stratified by income and education of the mother, race is still a risk factor. This means that black women with the same salary and years of education as white women in their peer group are still at greater risk of having their babies die before they reach the age of 1. Even the Centers for Disease Control cannot explain this, but a history of racism surely plays a role.
For this reason it is unhelpful when respected professionals perpetuate myths about welfare abuse within the African-American community during a dialogue about IMR.HEATHER JORDAN, MPH
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