By: Johnson C. Smith University
The month of November is designated as Prematurity Awareness Month, which aims to raise awareness around infant mortality and prematurity.
Students, faculty and staff were able to engage with Preconception Peer Educators (PPE), students who are trained in educating the campus on various initiatives that can help eliminate health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S.
The peer educators, along with Dr. Antonia Mead, chair of the Health and Human Performance Department and professor of Health Education, addressed prematurity awareness this month by installing signs with prematurity facts around campus.
The organization also did a tabling event showcasing the sizes of premie diapers in comparison to a diaper for a baby who was born full-term at 40 weeks. Additionally, the hedges and trees in The Block were lit in purple for prematurity awareness throughout the month.
“Some of the health complications you see hit when you’re in your 40s are the result of things that happen in your 20s, which can impact a birthing journey” said Mead. “The PPE program is important because it allows our students to talk with their peers about being healthy now for later, especially when it comes to reproductive health.”
This month’s efforts aimed to raise awareness about the disproportionately high infant mortality rates within the Black community.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, the Black infant mortality rate is more than two times higher than white infant mortality, and 1.8 times higher than the infant mortality rate among all other races.
The most common causes of infant mortality include low birthweight, congenital malformations, maternal complications, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and accidents/unintentional injuries.
“Prematurity, infertility and infant mortality aren’t talked about enough in our community,” Mead said.
“We want to remove the stigma and tell people it’s OK to talk about those things.”
“We’re creating advocates in the community,” she added. “It’s hard in some communities to find care that you consider culturally appropriate and you feel comfortable with. The only way that can change is to get more people from our communities in these disciplines. That will take some time, which is why advocacy is important.”
The organization will continue advocating for solutions to preconception issues in the spring, with a special emphasis on National Minority Health Month in April.
For more information, or to get involved with the JCSU PPE program, reach out via Instagram @JCSUPPE.