Newborn Promise
For black infant mortality, a hint of progress

About this project

For most of the last century, the infant mortality disparity has widened between black and white newborns. The result has been a black infant mortality rate that compares with that of Third World countries. But in places like Oakland, new evidence suggests the disparity is narrowing. Local officials credit intensive in-home contact between county nurses and moms or moms-to-be for helping to lower the death rate for children. The trend is showing up across California, where the black infant mortality rate dropped more than 20 percent between 2008 and 2010.


Key to infant health: reducing stress on mom before pregnancy

A consistent theme has emerged from the federal Healthy Start program since its founding in 1991: Infant mortality is not tackled during the 9 months of a woman’s pregnancy alone.

On the streets of Oakland, new hope for black infants

In the roughest neighborhoods of Oakland, Sandra Tramiel carries a baby scale in her knapsack as she undertakes a profound mission: saving Alameda County's black children from death before their first birthday.

San Francisco struggles to match California’s gains on black infant mortality

After an agonizingly long fight to reduce the high death rate of African American newborns, California is beginning to make progress against a century-long racial disparity. The state's infant mortality rate among blacks fell 21 percent between...

Oakland 'godmother’ who curbed black infant death rate retires

Oakland reluctantly parted with a godmother last week, as public health nurse Sandra Tramiel made the final rounds of a career devoted to reducing an African American infant mortality rate that remains among the most stubborn in the country.


John Gonzales

John Gonzales

Senior writer John Gonzales specializes in the demographics of health policy. He was most recently based in New Orleans as Southern Regional Correspondent for the Associated Press. He covered efforts to rebuild from Hurricane Katrina, as well as immigration and the shifting demographics of The South. Gonzales previously was Hispanic Affairs reporter at Newsday -- a beat that took him from New York's emerging Mexican neighborhoods, to the U.S. border region, to rural Mexican towns. His "Texas Smuggling" articles won the National Association of Hispanic Journalists best breaking news award in 2004. He was also awarded The Freedom Forum’s North American Journalist Exchange fellowship in 2001. Gonzales spent the early part of his 15-year journalism career on the staffs of The Daily Breeze and the Gardena Valley News. He is a USC Annenberg graduate, with honors, and a dual major in political science. He is also a Spanish speaker and graduate of the Los Angeles Times Minority Editorial Training Program, or METPro.

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