Dressed in a red onesie and holding tightly to his mom’s hand, 1-year-old Eugene Fulmore III toddled around the Riviera Beach Marina Village Event Center Wednesday morning as a special event hosted by Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County was about to get underway.
Eugene and more than a dozen other 1-year-olds and their families were invited to join the agency’s ‘Oh What Fun, Look Who’s One!’ birthday celebration in honor of Infant Mortality Awareness Month.
Infant mortality is described as the death of a child before his or her first birthday, and it continues to be a major social crisis and health care concern in Florida and throughout the country, according to CSC.
Black babies, in particular, have a higher infant mortality rate than non-Hispanic whites and are more likely to die from complications related to low birth weight and premature birth, CSC said.
But the agency is working hard to reverse that trend.
CEO Lisa Williams-Taylor announced Wednesday that the rate of black infant deaths in Palm Beach County has reached a 20-year low.
In 2017, the county’s black infant mortality rate was 6.0 infant deaths per 1,000 births, well below the statewide rate of 10.8 and even further below the rate in other large, urban counties such as Miami-Dade (11.5), Hillsborough (13.0), Duval (13.6) and Orange (15.5).
“Infant mortality is always tragic, both for the family and the community,” Williams-Taylor said. “We hope that the work being done in Palm Beach County to emphasize the importance of prenatal care, early doctor visits, reducing stress and focusing on healthy behaviors will continue to reduce the overall rates and lower the racial disparities.”
Williams-Taylor noted in her presentation Wednesday that the infant mortality rate for black non-Hispanics in 2017 was more than double the rate for white non-Hispanics, while the rates for both Hispanics and Haitians also remain higher than the white non-Hispanic rate.
But with the help of local partners, CSC has developed a comprehensive set of programs to address these racial disparities and help reduce infant mortality.
They include the Women’s Health Initiative Nurses (WHIN), which addresses the health and wellness needs of black women who are either pregnant or have a baby; and Community Voice, a program that supports behaviors to promote healthy pregnancies through education and healthy lifestyles.
These programs, in addition to others that provide support to pregnant and new moms, have helped Nakendra Hendrix navigate her baby Eugene’s first year.
“It’s benefited me a lot, because without them, I wouldn’t have had help dealing with stress and every-day basics that I didn’t know about. I was taking advice from other mothers through the programs that they provide. It’s helped me a lot,” said Hendrix.
For information on Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County, visit www.cscpbc.org.