Officials in San Diego have caused controversy by putting up tax-payer funded billboards that warn expectant mothers of color that they face health complications due to racism, according to a report.
The advertisements reads, “Our Black babies are nearly 60% more likely to be premature due to discrimination,” and “Racism hurts your baby long before they’re born.”
However, some observers say that the billboards overstate the effects of racism and may discourage people from seeking medical help, according to Fox News.
“The big lie is that somehow America is filled with racism — when in fact, America has made so much progress on that issue,” Carl DeMaio, a former Republican San Diego City Council member turned radio host, told Fox News. “It’s truly something to celebrate.”
The chairman of Reform California, a conservative political action committee, said the taxpayer funded billboards send a “dangerous and divisive message,” and should be taken down by the county’s health department.
“I would presume that this will discourage African-Americans from trusting their doctors, trusting the health care system, because they’re being told that health care providers in their area are all racists,” he reportedly said. “How does that encourage people to use the health care system?”
The National Center for Health Statistics confirms that black babies (12.2 percent) were more likely to be born prematurely than white (7.7 percent) and Hispanic babies (9.9 percent) in California, according to the report.
“Although California’s infant mortality rate is better than the national average, there are significant disparities, with African American babies dying at more than twice the rate of other groups,” according to California Health and Human Services.
“Factors affecting the health of entire populations can also impact the mortality rate of infants,” the health organization’s website reads.
DeMaio claimed poverty and low incomes are to blame for the divide, not racism, according to the article.
“It is a false narrative, and it is a false narrative that is being disseminated with our tax dollars,” DeMaio reportedly said.
One of the country’s largest medical associations supports the former lawmaker’s assertion.
“Poverty and low-income status are associated with a variety of adverse health outcomes, including… higher rates of infant mortality,” the American Academy of Family Physicians said on its website.
However, a 2020 study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that disparities exist even between black and white women of the same “high socioeconomic status.”
“These results suggest that factors other than socio-demographics are important in the underlying… racial disparities,” researchers concluded.
San Diego County health officials did not immediately respond to Fox’s request for comment.