Roots of Infant Mortality

The United States has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world among first world countries. Memphis, however, has one of the highest in the United States, so it would be fair to call Memphis the worst of the worst as far as infant mortality rates. If you know anything much about the medical side of Memphis, you would know that Memphis has some of the best hospitals in the nation. On top of that, Regional Medical Hospital is known for having one of the best neonatal intensive care units in the nation.  The two facts I have said so far seem to contradict each other. How can one city have one of the highest infant mortality rates, but yet have one of the best NICU centers. Minorities, particularly, have an even higher mortality rate. The question is why? How can a city have the best NICU but the highest infant mortality rate? Why are minorities much more susceptible to infant mortality not just in Memphis, but all across America?

Premature birth is the leading cause to infant mortality. Therefore, I think we have to start there with the problem. Stress, drugs, smoking, and lack of prenatal care are some major factors known to increase the chances of premature birth. When we think of these things, it makes a little more sense why minorities might be more likely to have premature births.  When I think of the big picture, education has a huge part in this. Stress, for example, can be related to many things. However, a major stressor in people’s lives is financial means. If you are struggling to keep your family afloat, you will be stressed all the time, especially if you are barely hanging on and find out you’re pregnant.  Minorities have a much higher percentage living in poverty. The way you get out of poverty is get an education, get a college degree, and find a job that will support you and your family. This of course is much easier said than done. The problem is our education system is discriminatory towards minorities, which makes it much harder to overcome poverty. Minorities that live in low income neighborhoods, go to low income schools. High income schools and low income school do not exactly teach the same way. Often in major cities, the low income schools are the public schools, while the high income schools are private schools. Obviously low income families can’t afford the private schools so they have no choice but to go public. Many people say that the public schools problem is the teachers and our tenure process, but that’s another topic. Many low income schools focus on teaching the basic skills of obedience, being on time, and proper discipline. How convenient as that’s exactly what I would want as an employee. Because the southern economy thrives by selling its cheap labor, southern schools are ensuring this process stays alive. If we taught our kids leadership skills, as many private schools do, then we wouldn’t be able to support the many jobs that major companies in the south depend on.

Therefore, low income children, that are forced to go to low income schools, are prepared to work in low income jobs. They are then in the same situation as their parents are in. Notice the cycle? I can see where people would ask, well the government gives Pell grants for children like that, so why don’t they go to college and get a degree? Well, one major reason is because the south can’t let that happen, or else our economy would not operate the same. Schools have tracking to ensure kids are ready to take the low wage jobs. Tracking is where the schools choose a “track” for the children to be on their freshman year of high school. This is based on their GPA among “other things.” Because the higher income children (who are majority white) have higher GPA due to advantages and privileges that minorities tend not to have, it’s no surprise that they are the children chosen to be on the “university” track. Other children are put on a “tech” track or a non-university track and therefore, once they graduate, they can’t even get into a four year university because they haven’t met the requirements.

The lack of education also links to smoking, drugs, and the lack of prenatal care. If you do not know what you are supposed to do during pregnancy, how are you supposed to properly take care of your body? Granted, there are programs such as WIC helping this problem, but there again, if women are not educated and do not know about WIC, it defeats the purpose. Even if low income families know what to do, it doesn’t mean they can. If a low income family doesn’t have a car and lives in a low income neighborhood, they may not be able to get to a store that provides healthy foods. As you can see, there are several problems that our society places on low income people. However, many can be link directly to our education system.

Our society has many problems, but one major one is the education system. I believe many of our social problems are linked to education, not just infant mortality rate. Maybe, just maybe, if we as a society quit looking at the differences in people, quit being afraid to take the lead instead of always being the followers, then we could become something America has never seen before. Fix our education system to educate everyone, not just the privileged, and maybe we can come together to fix this mess the South and the entire nation is in.

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