- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:


Oct. 8

The Florence TimesDaily and Decatur Daily on the disparity between white and black infant mortality rates in Alabama:

Black babies in Alabama are two times more likely to die than white babies.

That disparity has existed for years, according to 10 years of statistics from the Alabama Department of Public Health Center for Health Statistics. And while the gap actually dropped in 2017, it remains an area of concern that public health officials believe must be addressed.

In 2017, the black infant mortality rate was 11.3 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 5.6 for white infants. In 2016, the rate was 15.1 deaths per 1,000 live births for black babies compared to 5.0 for white infants.

“These statistics can’t lie, so now it’s about what we do with it,” Janice Smiley, director of the Perinatal Health Division of the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), told officials attending a two-day Infant Mortality Reduction Summit recently in Prattville.

It’s not a disparity that’s unique to Alabama. Nationally, the gap is the same as it is in Alabama: 2 to 1.

First and foremost we must all agree that the death of any baby is difficult to accept - no matter what color the infant’s skin is. Secondly, we must acknowledge that the threat is greater and real for black infants, and that deserves the attention of all health care officials.

The reasons for the disparity are complex and are rooted in social structures from generations past, according to organizers for the North Carolina-based Racial Equity Institute. Part of it is the economic gap between blacks and whites, but Jennifer Schaal pointed out to summit attendees you can’t just point to socioeconomics.

“When you are creating programs or analyzing data, you have to break it down by race and look at the racial effect,” Schaal said. “We have to constantly address it and constantly look at it because what may be good for white people may not always be good for black people.”

ADPH statistics point to three major causes for infant mortality in Alabama - low birth weight, preterm births before 37 weeks gestation, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Nationally, experts cite things like good housing, safe neighborhoods, stable jobs, proper diet and available transportation. Stress or trauma during pregnancy is a key factor that can lead to premature delivery.

In 2018, Gov. Kay Ivey announced the state had developed a pilot program to reduce overall infant mortality rates by 20% within five years.

The major elements are an increased emphasis upon screening for substance abuse, a focus on domestic violence and depression, breastfeeding promotion, and teaching parents how to place their babies for safer sleeping.

“If we are going to move the needle in the right direction,” said ADPH’s Smiley, “we’ve got to have our legislators on board, we’ve got to have programs doing the right thing, we’ve got to be implementing those programs in the communities needed.”

She’s right. Promoting the safety and well-being of our tiniest and most helpless citizens should be a goal of lawmakers and health officials across the state.

Online: https://www.timesdaily.com and https://www.decaturdaily.com


Oct. 7

The Dothan Eagle on a lawsuit over the out-of-state tuition system at Auburn University, and how it could impact other schools:

A $10 million lawsuit against Auburn University over its out-of-state tuition system should be closely watched given the potential ramifications it has.

Jeffrey Prosser and his daughter, Brooke, filed the suit after failing to convince university officials that Brooke Prosser qualifies for in-state tuition, which at $5,746 per semester is $9,816 less than the out-of-state rate. The Prossers, who used to live in Georgia, now live across the Chattahoochee River in Valley, Alabama, and argue that the out-of-state rate is wrongly applied.

The concept of two tuition scales for Alabama residents and others suggests that residents have contributed to the tax base of the state while those coming from elsewhere have not. Almost 13,000 of Auburn University’s student population of roughly 30,000 hail from states or nations outside Alabama, and are presumably ineligible for in-state tuition.

However, state support of public institutions of higher education has decreased over time; in the 2013-2014 budget year, Auburn reported state appropriations that accounted for roughly 25 percent of its $1 billion-plus budget.

The progression of the Prossers’ case may well put the out-of-state tuition system under a microscope to determine how residency is determined, and for whom and under what circumstances, as well as the formula to justify the disparity in price tags - not only at Auburn, but also at public universities across the nation.

Online: https://www.dothaneagle.com


Oct. 6

The Gadsden Times on the approaching deadline to comply with new state ID laws:

Those of you who fly a lot, for business or pleasure, or regularly have to enter secure federal buildings or facilities (like military bases), pay attention - the clock is ticking.

Gov. Kay Ivey issued a reminder - and we’re reinforcing it as a public service - that beginning Oct. 1, 2020, people will need an upgraded STAR ID driver’s license to get on a domestic airline flight or get inside one of those secure federal locations. (A U.S. passport or passport card will suffice, but we imagine most folks who have those don’t want to be dragging them out of storage if they aren’t going overseas.)

That means you have about a year to get this taken care of.

And if you need one but haven’t gotten one yet, you’ve been procrastinating, because this isn’t the first time this advisory has gone out. (Alabama has been warning people for at least five years.)

The Real ID Act, which strengthened issuance standards for personal identification documents like driver’s licenses, was passed 14 years ago during President George W. Bush’s administration, in response to security concerns raised by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

There have been various extensions to give states and territories an opportunity to become compliant - according to the Department of Homeland Security, 51 of the 56 on the list (including Alabama) had been certified as of last month - but next October’s deadline (or reckoning) is firm.

Getting an initial STAR ID requires going to a driver’s license examination office. (Afterward, you can renew at the courthouse or online once during an eight-year period.)

Yes, those places are crowded with people seeking to do other things. Yes, they are understaffed with folks who might have to close up shop and administer a driver’s test. You’re going to have to deal with it, or travel to one of the offices that takes appointments.

You also will have to provide some specific documents to confirm your birth date and your address. A complete list is available at https://bit.ly/2Yl2xuP , but they include things like a certified birth certificate, Social Security card, utility bills, a mortgage contract or lease or rental agreement, or proof of property tax payment.

We can hear the grumbling about this being an unnecessary pain in the tuchus. (No one can say it’s about making money, though. The price for a STAR ID is the same as a regular driver’s license, $36.25; both carry an added fee for online renewals.)

Grumble away, but unless you plan to make all your trips by car or train, you’d best acknowledge that ticking clock.

Online: https://www.gadsdentimes.com


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