Married to an acclaimed movie director and herself a filmmaker, Tonya Lewis Lee has produced documentaries and TV miniseries revolving around subjects she’s most passionate about.
Outspoken on issues involving women, children and race, one of Lee’s next film scripts will explore the hot topic of infant-mortality rates in the African American community, its causes and the role that she says racism plays in it.
Lee’s push for more research on the topic has brought her to New Orleans, where she will take part in a health fair at the Allie Mae Williams Community Center, 2020 Jackson Ave., today from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The health fair is sponsored by the city health department and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Lee is the lead spokeswoman for the Office of Minority Health’s national campaign “A Healthy Baby Begins With You.”
“While we’re trying to figure out the exact reasons why black women in America have higher infant-mortality rates than other women, we’re trying to encourage women to be as healthy as they can be, as early as possible, ” Lee said Wednesday.
In Louisiana, 10 out of 1,000 infants die before their first birthday, a rate that’s nearly the worst in the nation, the latest data, compiled for 2006, show.
And while most African-American babies are born healthy, black babies nationwide are more than two times as likely to die before their first birthday as white babies, a disparity that was matched in Louisiana and has widened since Hurricane Katrina, according to data from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.
Many die as the result of being born prematurely or with a low birth weight, which is much more common for babies born to African-American women, for reasons that aren’t completely understood, say researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.