A new study from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) confirms that another reason why minority women urgently need better access to health care is to reduce the high rates of infant mortality observed in Hispanic and non-Hispanic black communities. The study, published in the Journal of Women’s Health, reports these demographics have especially concerning mortality rates compared to whites due to poor access to health care that limits preventive care and preconception guidance.
The study identifies five major risk factors for infant mortality: alcohol use, smoking, diabetes, obesity, and chronic mental stress. Of the 54,600 study participants aged 18-44 years, Clark Denny and colleagues from the CDC found more than 50 percent of evaluated women had at least one of the five risk factors, and approximately 20 percent had two or more risk factors.
Of that 20 percent group, researchers found women with two or more risk factors were more likely to have less than a high school education, were unable to work, were not married, and reported insufficient emotional support.
The most commonly paired risk factors were alcohol use and smoking.
In an editorial following the study, Anne L. Dunlop, M.D., M.P.H., and Darcie L. Everett, M.D., M.P.H., explain the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be an important tool in decreasing both risk factors and infant mortality.
Under the ACA, provisions specific to helping infant mortality will center on increasing access to care by decreasing the cost of services and opening community centers in underserved areas. Under the ACA, low-cost or no-cost programs will be available for cases of obesity and tobacco use. Women will be eligible to attending substance abuse counseling as well as obesity screenings and consulting.
Guidelines specific to women have been also been implemented by the health reform law. Women will be eligible for complimentary or no-co-pay wellness visits with a physician, where issues such as preconception care and contraceptives can be discussed. The ACA also increases the number of young, healthy individuals in the insurance pool, offering coverage to people of childbearing age from minorities groups.
This approach to women’s health care is different than the traditional model, suggest the editorial authors. Under the ACA, women will be encouraged to seek care before, during and after conception, and issues relating to pregnancy complications can be detected early. Because minority women are often subject to disproportionate medical conditions when compared to other ethnicities, Journal of Women’s Health authors feel minority women have the most to gain from the ACA when it comes to pregnancy care and women’s issues.
The optimism regarding minority care under the ACA is shared by the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity & Reproductive Rights (COLOR). The group feels the ACA will make great strides in preventing unwanted pregnancies among Latinas, offering free services and generating ease of access for health care.
Health care and public policy are expected to make a difference in reversing the reproductive health disparities, including the incidence of infant mortality.