Fathers called on to combat high infant mortality rate
By Graig Graziosi
A dozen men and women gathered at New Bethel Baptist Church to discuss the issue of infant mortality in the black community and how male roles in child rearing are pivotal to helping reduce deaths.
Stacy Scott, executive director of the Global Infant Safe Sleep Center, and Nathaniel Jordan II, the executive director of the Youngstown chapter of Fatherhood Matters, led a discussion Friday evening at the South Side church entitled “A Community of Committed Men” that focused on the role men play in the health of expectant mothers and their unborn and new born children.
The discussion also focused on safe sleep habits for infants.
“Fathers are often left out of the discussion when it comes to child birth and infant safety,” Scott said. “This program helps educate not only fathers, but all men – grandfathers, uncles, cousins – on the importance of their role in a child’s life.”
While the information Scott’s organization presents is applicable to all men, her program also focuses on the unique struggles of black families and aims to reduce the disparity between the infant-mortality rate in black communities and white and Hispanic communities.
“The mortality rate for black infants is three times higher than in the white community,” Jordan said. “Our babies are dying before their first birthday.”
Scott said stress was a major indicator of the likelihood that a child might be born premature or with a low birth weight, which both increase the risk that a child won’t live past its first birthday.
She said factors such as racism, being a single mother, substance abuse and general socioeconomic-based anxiety are more prevalent in the black community and, therefore, have a greater impact on the health of infants.
Jordan said men need to step up and be proactive in helping alleviate the stress of their partners during pregnancy.
“We men can make a difference helping the women in our lives manage their stress,” Jordan said. “We need to be there during the pregnancy, and we need to be a source of comfort and strength, not stress.”
Jordan coordinates a 13-week program to help men become more empathetic and more comfortable sharing and dealing with their emotions. The program also addresses issues such as substance abuse, housing struggles and fatherhood.