While the facts reported in the story are true - Racine does have the highest infant mortality rate among African-Americans in the state, and the rate is higher than some Third World countries - the article fails to report positive steps the city is taking to help mothers and babies. Instead, it knocks down Racine to make Madison look better.
The article by Mary Ellen Bell highlights efforts Madison has taken since 2001 to reduce its infant mortality rate 67 percent, a remarkable decline, to be sure. To amplify this success, Bell interviews former Racine resident Ta-Shai Pendleton, who lost two babies while living here. After moving to Madison, the 21-year-old had a healthy baby. Here's an excerpt from the article:
Pendleton's experiences suggest that public health and family support services are far better in Dane County.Left out of the story is Racine's recent efforts to take the exact same steps Madison took eight years ago to reduce infant mortality. The city's Healthy Births, Healthy Outcomes program is up and running with two registered nurses helping at-risk mothers. Racine is also looking to hire a coordinator for the program in the next few months. It's a program similar to one started in Madison eight years ago.
In Racine, Pendleton says she never got a visit from a home health nurse and had no access to childbirth or parenting classes. In Madison, a public health nurse visited and phoned regularly throughout her pregnancy.
"My nurse is teaching me a lot," Pendleton told Isthmus before Za-Niah was born. "I'm doing things differently because I'm a lot more educated now. I watch movies about babies with the home nurse. I go to birthing classes. And the nurse calls me to check that I'm doing everything I'm supposed to be doing, like taking my prenatal vitamins and getting enough rest."
But instead of even hinting at Racine's efforts to reduce its infant mortality rate, the article rips the city for its "terrible" neighborhoods and suggests doctors here "don't listen." I'm no apologist; there are bad neighborhoods in Racine and no doubt some doctors don't listen. But high infant mortality rates are pretty simple. Poverty increases the risk of babies dying. Racine is one of the poorest cities in the state; Madison is one of the richest. Is there any real "medical mystery tour" here?
It's hard to fault Bell for writing a pro-Madison article for a Madison newspaper. But it would have been a more complete story to include Racine's efforts to save its babies, instead of simply using our community to make Madison look better.