Yvonne Abraham’s Boston Globe editorial “A sad statistic that endures” did an excellent job describing racial disparities in the birth of underweight babies, a key finding from MAPC’s newly-released “The State of Equity in Metro Boston” report. Yvonne’s column focused on our finding that “a college-educated black woman is a fraction more likely to have a low-birth-weight baby than a white woman who didn’t finish high school.” Her description of the phenomenon and its drivers is spot-on. There are a variety of reasons why this problem endures, from the legacy of poverty disproportionately suffered by African Americans to persistent segregation.
However, I disagreed with the closing lines of the article: “Segregation is not an act of God. But it may take one to undo its effects.” While Yvonne does an excellent job of showing the full weight of historical and societal reasons why African American women are so much more likely to have underweight babies, her conclusion that the problem is intractable is premature.
While the picture may look bleak, there are many reasons to remain hopeful and optimistic about our capacity for real change in our region. Researchers, advocates, and government officials are all working on the issue from a variety of perspectives. The Annie E. Casey Foundation wrote a policy brief on preventing low birth weight, and it outlines a wide variety of evidence-based approaches, from smoking cessation programs for young women to nutrition counseling to raising awareness of the role segregation plays in low birth weight. Small programs and innovative policy makers around the country are taking these and other approaches and implementing them on the ground.
We are working with partners to identify and develop policy recommendations that can “bend the trends”
At MAPC, we’re doing our part as well, as we shift into phase two of our State of Equity work. Now that we’ve identified inequalities in the region, we are working with partners to identify and develop policy recommendations that can “bend the trends,” taking us from where we are now to where we want to be.
Do you have policy recommendations you think we should consider? We are gathering input from colleagues around the region, and we want to hear from you. Submit your ideas for phase two of the State of Equity report and let us know how you would like to be involved. You’ll be hearing from me!
The problems outlined in the State of Equity report make it clear that we have our work cut out for ourselves. But with the right solutions and the right partners, we can make those changes happen.
–Jessie Grogan, MAPC’s Policy Analyst and co-author of The State of Equity in Metro Boston