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Award-Winning Journalist to Discuss the American Infant Mortality Crisis

By Grace Douglas

An upcoming campus speaker will address a critical issue: exposing the American infant mortality crisis and the high number of birth complications.

The Old Dominion University Women's Studies Department, in partnership with the ODU Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs, will host a public lecture on "The American Infant Mortality Crisis" with Linda Villarosa, award-winning journalist and expert on social justice and health care, at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 30 in the Chandler Recital Hall of the Diehn Fine and Performing Arts Building on 49th Street.

Villarosa's renowned work on the relationship between race, maternal health and infant mortality launched a national dialogue following her pivotal New York Times Magazine features story "Why America's Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis."

Her work exposes a critical care crisis that falls disproportionately to black women and infants. The United States is ranked 32nd out of the 35 wealthiest nations in infant mortality, driven largely by the death of black babies. Even within some of the world's most advanced medical research and care facilities, 700-900 maternal deaths occur in the U.S. each year, with an additional 50,000 near-death complications.

Black babies in America are more than twice as likely to die as an infant than a white baby. Villarosa's work uncovers the daunting causes behind this phenomenon.

Villarosa also poses clear solutions in her analysis of this race, gender and class-based crisis. She advocates for doula birth programs that offer physical and emotional support to ultimately help save lives and dramatically reduce infant mortality. Based on Villarosa's pivotal research, ODU Women's Studies launched a doula training program through the support of the Anita Clair Fellman Service-Learning Scholarship. Ten students have graduated from Birthjourneys in Hampton Roads, with a commitment to apply their skills to underserved populations in the region.

The event, which is free and open to the public. Contact the Women's Studies Department at 757.683.3823 or wmst@odu.edu for more information.

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