Saturday

Volusia County's climbing infant mortality rate



Volusia County is known for its beaches--you can drive on them. Although the downside to this is that often sunbathers get run over and cars are polluting. The local "sons of beaches" believe that cars on beaches are an essential freedom, like voting. We are also known for our racetrack in Daytona Beach, the home of speed. We are a tourist destination because of our beaches, warm weather (although after yesterday's snow flurries, warmth is somewhere south of here). We have Bike Week and Biktoberfest in which thousands of bikes and their owners come to pay us a visit. Our community banks on these activities because it means economic survival. These huge events help the community weather the slow daze of few tourists and fewer dollars. Residents know that this county has the lowest wages in the State-ranking at the bottom. Many residents communte to other counties for higher paying wages--like the Cape (Caniveral) or Orlando. We joke about the local employment ads, practically non-existent. Jobs have vanished like an animal on the endangered species list. How does a community withstand the withering of its economy? Who takes the hit? I see more people living on the streets, "will work for food" signs. A few months ago I saw a well-dressed elderly man with his dog. His head hung low, he held a sign asking for food. Many people stopped which usually isn't the case. Community food banks are struggling to keep up with the increased need. Poverty is mostly hidden away in this county. So seeing it close, with more people on the streets, begging for food, jars the fantasy that all is well. One of the indicators that all is not well is higher infant mortality rates. So a few days ago I started looking at this county's infant mortality rates. I went to the website of Florida Vital Statistics. I looked at the total infant mortality (babies born alive whose deaths ocurred within 364 days of birth) which was described as "reflecting the health and well-being of the population's women of reproductive age and their infants as well as quality of the health care available." Florida's white infant mortality rate for the year 2008 was 5.5 and the black infant mortality rate was 12.9. In Volusia County the white infant mortality rate in the year 2008 was 7.3 and the black infant mortality rate was 24.3. In Miami-Dade the white infant mortality for 2008 was 3.9 and the black infant mortality rate was 8.8. For the same year in Orange County (part of Orlando) the white infant mortality rate was 5.4 with 17.8 for black infants. Volusia County's black infant mortality rate in 2006 was 6.4, in 2007 it was 12.0, and 2008 it was a whopping 24.3. When the economy takes a nosedive, whose health and well-being suffer? Why are other counties in the state doing better than Volusia County? Is it just the economic turndown that is impacting our County more than others? What's wrong here?
Copyright 2010 Valerie W. McClain

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