African American infant mortality rates (IMR) in San Francisco have remained 2.5 to three times those of Whites for over 20 years.

Methods. A 69-item telephone survey of African American residents in four neighborhoods with the most African American births assessed awareness of IMR disparities, associated risks, and social capital.

Results. Of the 804 respondents, 57% were not aware of the IMR disparity. Higher levels of awareness occurred in those volunteering (OR 1.5, CI 1.1–2.0), participating in efforts to benefit the African American community (OR 1.8, CI 1.3–2.4), sensing that they belonged in their neighborhood (OR 1.7, CI 1.2–2.3), and being aware of a local African American-led initiative to improve infant health (OR 2.3, CI 1.7–3.9). Lack of awareness can be a barrier to a population’s engagement in improving its overall health.

Conclusion. Lack of awareness of IMR disparities and risk factors exists in the San Francisco African American population and is related to less social capital. Improving awareness is a prerequisite for implementing community level interventions.


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