Upcoming health care reforms could reduce one of the more mysterious disparities in the U.S.: The difference in infant mortality rates between black and white babies, the Los Angeles Times reports. Black babies are more than twice as likely to die before they turn one, compared to white babies.
In a new feature, the Times outlines the problem of disparate infant mortality rates by profiling two babies and their families. That’s Adris Bradley at the top of the page on the Times‘s site, wearing the cutest-ever soft plastic baby glasses. It’s a relief to see him so healthy and happy there, especially if you scroll down to see how he looked when he was born at a paltry 1 pound, 8 ounces.
There’s been a lot of talk about improving black babies’ health by upping the number of black moms who get prenatal care—vital for mom and baby—but researchers now think the roots of infant mortality inequality reach further back in time than that. The Obama Administration’s controversial health care reforms are set to expand Medicaid coverage, require all Americans to have health insurance, and make other changes to health insurance in the U.S. Different parts of the law will take effect at different times; some have already come online. Overall, researchers hope the changes will reduce other health inequalities that affect black women disproportionately, and that may affect any babies they have down the road, including lower rates of health insurance coverage and higher rates of diabetes and obesity.
Nevertheless, equality may require changes on other fronts, too. Although differences in income, education and health care access explain some of the inequity in American infant mortality rates, they don’t explain everything. Babies of highly educated black mothers, such as Adris’ mom, are still at higher risk than babies of white women with less education. The cumulative effects of racism and stress seem to make a difference, too, U.S. Health and Human Services Department researcher Kay Johnson told the Los Angeles Times.