Black women and men in Dane County have identified persistent, unchanging racial and economic inequity as key drivers of the disparity in infant birth weights and birth outcomes in the county in a new report released today. Ten consistent themes from the report emerged from an engagement effort that drew from African-American residents from across Dane County.

The Dane County Health Council and the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness released “Saving our Babies: Low Birthweight Engagement Final Report” on African-American infant health in Dane County today in honor of Black Maternal Health Week.

The report identifies 10 factors that contribute to low birth weight among black babies including:

  • Racism, discrimination, and institutional bias
  • Bias and cultural disconnect in health-care delivery experiences
  • Economic insecurity
  • Housing insecurity and high cost of living
  • Poor access to health-supporting assets
  • Inadequate social supports
  • Gaps in health literacy, education, and support
  • Disconnected and hard-to-navigate community resources
  • Systemic barriers to individual and family advancement
  • Chronic stress

“What we heard definitively from Black women and men is that the poor birth outcomes experienced by many Black families are, in their eyes, driven by larger social and economic forces that exert pressure and persistent stress on their lives as individuals and family units,” said Lisa Peyton-Caire, founder and president of the Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness, in a statement. “The last nine months of work has been unprecedented in that we were able to engage so many voices. Our charge now is to work in partnership to implement solutions that will secure the long-term health of Black babies in Dane County. This must include intentional steps to improve the well-being of Black families.”

The report from Peyton-Caire’s Foundation and its project partner EQT By Design, LLC, found that African-Americans in Dane County identify the following as root causes of low-birthweight black infants: stressed black family systems; generational struggles for economic security and stability; and institutional racism and bias and their impact on black life and progress.

“These findings align with hundreds of studies that detail how toxic stress and racism throughout the lives of individuals of color impact their well-being,” said Janel Heinrich, director of Public Health Madison & Dane County, in a statement. “We must focus on the wide-ranging factors that are driving these inequitable birth outcomes. We know these outcomes are not inevitable and can be undone. Working in partnership, we can interrupt this cycle.”

A press conference outlining specific next steps is expected to be held in July. 

“This report’s goal was to gather insight, perspective, and feedback from those most significantly and directly affected by this issue: — Dane County’s African-American community,” said Dr. Ken Loving, Access Community Health Centers CEO, in a statement. “This summary is a powerful first step as we move forward in collaboration toward saving our babies.”

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