Mecklenburg County commissioners kicked off their 3-day budget retreat on Wednesday to discuss priorities for the fiscal year ahead. One of their top issues: Health disparities, especially among the county’s most vulnerable residents.
Mecklenburg Health Director Dr. Raynard Washington told commissioners his major goals center around greater equity. One of those goals is to increase access to primary health care. One in 4 adults in Mecklenburg County reports not having a primary care provider. Another priority is to advocate for Medicaid expansion to help the uninsured.
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Washington also addressed the county’s infant mortality numbers, another area where racial disparities persist. Those declined overall in 2020 to about five deaths per 1,000 live births. But that same year, there were nearly 10 infant deaths per 1,000 live births among African Americans in Mecklenburg. That’s more than triple the deaths per 1,000 live births among white infants.
One cause is access to prenatal care, Washington said. Another is accidents.
“There are also an additional set of excess deaths in the Black community associated with accidents among babies in their first year of life, or unintentional injuries is the official category that we classify it in,” Washington said. “Which includes babies who unfortunately die as a result of sleep-related circumstances because they’re not in safe sleep environments. Or in some cases, unfortunately, children who are killed as well in their first year of life.”