We are in the midst of Black History Month, a time where we celebrate and recognize the accomplishments of African Americans throughout history. We must remember and recount the contributions made by the many great African American leaders. Their impact has and continues to positively affect the system of early care and education we at Smart Start lead in conjunction with dozens of partners.

However, we would be remiss if we did not recognize how far we still have to go as a society related to disparities in care for African Americans and people of color. The American Academy of Pediatrics has acknowledged that racism is a social determinant of health that profoundly impacts the health status of children, adolescents, emerging adults, and their families. The impact of racism has been linked to birth disparities, mental health problems, and chronic disease in children and adolescents. Children experience the outputs of structural racism through a place, education, economic means, and legal means. Research identified the role of implicit and explicit personally mediated racism as a factor affecting health care delivery and general health outcomes.

This is especially critical for families of color in North Carolina, where infant and maternal mortality rates are 2-3 times higher for Black babies and moms. In Mecklenburg County, 72% of white mothers receive prenatal care, while only 58% of black receive prenatal care. The percentage of babies with low birth rates born to black mothers is more than double those of white families. Child maltreatment is another area that disproportionally impacts children of color. Of the 39% of child abuse or neglect reports in the County last year, over 58% of those reported were Black children. These statistics are appalling yet preventable.

As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, let us remember the past and commit ourselves to a more equitable future. 

Jake House

Jake House

CEO