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Omaha organizations address rising black infant mortality rates in Douglas County

Published: Mar. 4, 2021 at 12:01 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - New data shows that infant mortality rates in the country are rising and when we break it down by race black infants are dying at higher rates than any other race.

Take a look at the numbers in Nebraska and Douglas County, the black infant mortality rate in the county is 14.5 per 1,000 live births. Which is more than double what is being reported for white and Hispanic infants.

“A lot of women are dying because they’re not being supported and not being listened to,” said Asia Price with the Omaha Black Doula Association.

The black maternal mortality rate is more than double any other race.

But why?

Asia Price and Aledia Mikale, co-founders of the Omaha Black Doula Association have an idea.

“We haven’t been in the right rooms. We haven’t been in the right rooms to make a change,” said Mikale. “I think there may be a total of a handful of black physicians in the city of Omaha. And we just want to make that a normalcy.”

Representation -- it is one reason why they became doulas, someone who provides guidance and support to a woman before, during, and after birth.

Price says having someone who looks like you in the doctor’s office can make a difference.

“Next thing I know I can see someone come across and be like...hey you know like we’re here together. And let’s make this happen.”

As a teen mother Price said she needed that support in the doctor’s office especially after giving birth and dealing with postpartum depression, something many women deal with.

“I struggled. I was just trying to survive,” said Price.

But representation is just one problem. Mikale says other systemic issues can affect these high mortality rates for black mothers and infants as well as premature births and other complications that can come along with pregnancy.

“I mean the poverty, the pay disparity that’s going on, the lack of access to health care, transportation to be able to get to the doctors, fresh foods, and healthy diets,” said Mikale.

“We know the data has shown the prenatal care is often inadequate when it comes to black mothers. And so, a lot of times they’re not getting the same care than non-black mothers are getting.”

A prenatal education program Stork’s Nest is doing what it can to address these needs for pregnant women and women with children.

“It’s an incentive program trying to encourage them to have continuous prenatal care and take care of themselves,” said Beverly Jordan with the Stork’s Nest.

Stork’s Nest, created by a black sorority Zeta Phi Beta, works in partnership with March of Dimes and UNMC. It even provides educational classes.

“Postpartum to breastfeeding to nutrition. You know all those different things they would normally coming in and doing sessions on. But now they’re doing them on an e-course format,” said Bridgette Brown with the Stork’s Nest.

The organization has had a presence in Omaha for more than two decades and volunteers often hear from mothers who once benefited from their help.

“She told me a story of how she would not have been able to afford diapers. She would not have been able to have diapers if it were not for our program and just how amazing and supportive, we were. So that was huge for me,” said Teonette Lucas with the Stork’s Nest.

Both organizations say it all starts with a healthy mother and they hope to do their part to make an impact.

Nebraska legislators introduced two bills earlier this year that addresses maternal and infant mortality rates in the state.

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