At a time when Madison has placed increased focus on solving disparities between blacks and whites in education, criminal justice and employment, infant mortality rates between black and white infants continue to show wide gaps.

A report shows that black infant mortality rates in Dane County are twice that of white infants. This rate is similar in both Wisconsin and nationwide, according to the report.

This disparity in infant mortality and stillbirth rates of black infants versus white infants can be linked to a multitude of factors, however, Daniel Stattleman-Scanlan, Dane County Public Health perinatal supervisor, said this must be observed on a case by case basis.

The dramatic change in mortality rates from 2009 to 2014 can be attributed to a variety of different social and economic factors, although every case is situational, Stattleman-Scanlan said.

While the numbers regarding the disparity are staggering, 2003 to 2007 saw progress within this field, Stattleman-Scanlan said. Low black infant mortality rates were recorded, which can be attributed to good access to high quality prenatal care as well as a somewhat stable economy, he said.

However, in 2009 the positive rates decreased, which Stattleman-Scanlan said could be attributed to a variety of factors including the recession. Many mothers could have been stressed economically which leads to other stresses in regards to housing, healthcare and in some neighborhoods, violence, he said.

Another factor that is causing distress within the disparity of infant mortality rates is cohabitation, or sharing the same bed as an infant, which can sometimes lead to a baby suffocating, Stattleman-Scanlan said. This trend has recently received notice and has served as the starter for a new campaign dedicated to informing mothers and fathers the safe ways for their children to sleep, he said.

This campaign will be advertised on different media including both billboards and buses to assure that every mother and father receive the same message when it comes to the safety of their sleeping infants, Stattleman-Scanlan said. He said he is working with health care advisors to make sure that a consistent message is formed and that everyone will be told the same thing.

“What is important is that there is a consistent message being spread for all to hear,” Stattleman-Scanlan said.

Sue Marshall, spokesperson of the Women, Infants and Children Department of Public Health in Dane County, said it is important to get a healthy start for both mothers and children in regards to both nutrition and health care.

Marshall said WIC works primarily with mothers in poverty, focusing on the vitality of nutritional health of the babies, infants and children.

By providing free information in regards to food in particular, WIC emphasizes the importance of finding a consistent message that mothers can hear at clinics, hospitals and from doctors.

Hopefully with all of the proactive advertising in regards to safe sleep as well as any safe living conditions for children, Marshall said parents will be well-versed on what constitutes a safe environment.