Babies who are born underweight are at higher risk of developing health problems or even dying.
New state data show the rate of babies born with low birth weights to African American moms here hasn’t improved in almost two decades.
African Americans have the highest rate of babies born with low birth weight in New Mexico, almost 12 percent in 2016, compared to about 8 percent for white people.
Sunshine Muse runs a pilot program with the state’s Office of African American Affairs that helps black women get better prenatal care. She said black patients’ concerns aren’t taken as seriously by healthcare workers.
"Medical providers still think that African Americans specifically have higher pain tolerances than any other ethnicity or culture in the country," Muse said.
This lack of empathy can cause distrust and keep people from seeking medical help, Muse said, plus the racism black women face in everyday life can cause stress, increasing health risks for mom and baby.
African American women are becoming more vocal about this issue, Muse said, and that could explain why the rate has gone down over the past couple of years. Still, it’s as high now as it was in the 1990’s.
KUNM’s Public Health New Mexico project is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the McCune Charitable Foundation, and the Con Alma Health Foundation.