News Release

PO 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
Christine Grant
Acting Commissioner
For Release:
May 17, 1999
For Further Information Contact:
Rita Manno
(609) 984-7160
Lynn Nowak
Nancy Becker Associates
609 394-7477
NJ Home Page DHSS Home Page

New Jersey Department Of Health And Senior Services
Launches Campaign To Address Disparity In Infant Deaths

A Black infant is more than two times as likely as a white infant
to die before his or her first birthday

TRENTON - The Department of Health and Senior Services today launched a two-year, $ 1 million public awareness campaign - Black Infants Better Survival (BIBS) - making New Jersey the first state in the nation to spearhead a major communications effort targeted at Black infant mortality.

While overall mortality rates for infants, including Black infants, have dropped in recent years, there remains a wide disparity between rates for Black and white infants. "The fact that a Black baby is two times as likely as a white baby to die before his or her first birthday is a startling and unacceptable statistic," said Christine Grant, Acting Commissioner of the Department of Health and Senior Services. "When a Black infant dies, it's not a Black problem, it's everyone's problem."

The campaign was recommended by a diverse group of health and community officials who authored The Blue Ribbon Panel Report on Black Infant Morality Reduction. Upon its release in the fall of 1997, Governor Whitman and former Department of Health and Senior Services Commissioner Len Fishman committed State resources to the problem.

"The first finding The Blue Ribbon Panel Report on Black Infant Mortality was that there is little awareness of the extent of the problem of Black infant mortality in New Jersey," said Yvonne Wesley, Director of Research and Development at the Northern New Jersey Maternal/Child Health Consortium and Co-chair of the Blue Ribbon Panel. "Based on this finding, our first recommendation was to develop a public awareness campaign that highlights the tragic reality of Black infant mortality," stated Wesley "Many reports end up sitting on a shelf. We are thankful that this one is not. Babies' lives depend upon it."

While the first goal of Black Infants Better Survival is to raise awareness, the campaign also includes a critical public health component: It will help those who are most affected by the issue - Black women of child bearing age and their infants - receive the health care they need before, during and after pregnancy. "While it is not the only answer, pre and post natal care is a crucial element in the fight against Black infant mortality," said Acting Commissioner Grant.

The campaign will include advertising, public relations and grassroots community outreach components. The first three months of the effort is targeted at the general public. Beginning in September, Black Infants Better Survival will
aim at reaching the population at risk.

An 800 number - 1 888 414-BIBS - has been established as part of the effort. The number will serve as a referral center for women at risk, providing names, addresses and telephone numbers of appropriate health care facilities near their homes. Information on ways to achieve a healthy pregnancy will be available and forwarded to callers when appropriate. Callers who desire more detailed scientific studies and statistics on the issue will be referred to a center that can supply this information. BIBS also has a web site: www.state.nj.us/health/bibs.

The grassroots component of the campaign will reach out directly to members of the Black community - all ages, all socio-economic groups, in all parts of New Jersey - through health care, community, social and religious organizations and facilities.

Statistics show that there has been a sharp decline in Black infant mortality in New Jersey since the 1980s. In 1985, the rate of Black infant deaths was 90.3 for every 1,000 live births in New Jersey, As the following shows, that rate has dropped considerably, but a substantial disparity still exists between death rates for Black and white infants for every 1,000 live births:

New Jersey - 1996United States - 1995
Black Infants 14.9Black Infants 15.1
White Infants5.3White Infants 6.3

"Clearly, this disparity exists on a national basis, but in New Jersey, we are taking a significant step toward narrowing the gap," concluded Commissioner Grant.

# # #

NJ Home Page DHSS Home Page