Fair   77.0F  |  Forecast »

Infant Mortality in Detroit: Finding Solutions

In the city, a new community based initiative pairs at-risk mothers with mentors to ensure they receive necessary resources for their newborn babies

The Sew Up the Safety Net for Women & Children – also called the SUSN program – is taking a community-first approach to help at-risk moms get the resources and support they need to help their babies survive their first year.

Community activists, medical leaders and social services providers came together Oct. 19, 2011 to discuss a new program getting underway to curb the infant mortality rates in Detroit, which has more than double the national average of baby deaths.

What will the program do?

As part of the program, trained community health workers will go into Detroit neighborhoods and connect with local women to make sure they're receiving proper prenatal care, put them in touch with job training and literacy resources and prepare them for raising a child.

Community health workers, who are local women from the neighborhoods in which they serve, can reach patients in a way that traditional medical personnel cannot.

"They can go into the home, they know the community, they speak the language (and) they know the culture," says Gloria Palmisano of REACH Detroit, which has been using a similar approach for years.

The bond of trust that forms between the neighborhood women and their community mentors is invaluable, she says.

"(Patients) will tell them things that they have not told their provider," Palmisano says. "They will tell them things that are very personal that will help the community health worker understand what's really going on with them and help them to address those issues."

A closer look at Detroit's problem

Detroit has 14.8 baby deaths per 1,000 live births, according to 2009 statistics from the Michigan Department of Community Health. This is more than double the national average of 6.3 deaths per 1,000 live births. Statewide, Michigan has a rate of 7.5 deaths out of 1,000 live births.

According to other stats from the MDCH, the risk of infant mortality is higher if the baby has a low birth weight or was exposed to the effects of smoking – and if the mother is younger than 20 or older than 40, unmarried or didn't not receive adequate prenatal care

The problem of infant mortality, however, is also rooted in small things.

"I don't know if you've been through our neighborhoods at night, but they're dark. There's no light, so if you go through some of the neighborhoods and you don't have on headlights, you can't see what's happening in front of you," says Kirk Mayes, director of a neighborhood enhancement group in Brightmoor, one of the neighborhoods that will be helped by the SUSN program.

"Sometimes you weigh between what is taking care of your baby: Is it getting home at the right hour or is it going to get that extra can of milk?" he says.

Other factors that can impact infant mortality are unemployment, a lack of education, women being socially isolated, poverty, a lack of gender equity in pay and the social perception of women, says Dr. Talat Danish of the Wayne County Health Department.

Access a big issue

"Health is really not just about getting access to care. It's not just about healthcare delivery – going to the doctor and seeing the doctor. Rather, it's about creating conditions that will allow people to live healthy lives," she says.

"So unless we address the social milieu in which people live, we really cannot expect good health outcomes."

The racial disparity in terms of infant mortality rates is marked: In Detroit, whites experience 4.3 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, while for blacks, that number is 16.6 deaths, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health.

"Race underlies all of these social determinants of health," Danish says. Without targeting and eliminating the effects of racism felt by women of color, in addition to poorer economic situations and poorer educational opportunities, Danish says, the infant mortality rates will not change.

Dr. Yvonne Friday, a Detroit Medical Center pediatrician, says she wants to make pediatric care more accessible to Detroit children and to advocate for better nutrition for young children.

Starting at the beginning

Some of pediatricians' biggest challenges, Friday says, are in trying to help children who were born prematurely, who were born to mothers who did not get adequate prenatal care or who were born to young mothers who are unsure how to care for a child.

"If we don't shore up those children, there will be no one left for Social Security," Friday says.

The project has received a $300,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is partnering with The Kresge Foundation, the Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Health System and Oakwood Healthcare System, among others.

Old to new | New to old
Oct 30, 2011 04:34 pm
 Posted by  KeyAnna19

Hello how do you sign up to this program?

Nov 3, 2011 08:47 am
 Posted by  Stacey M.

If you are looking for more information on how to join the program, go to www.henryford.com/susn or call 313-874-4581.

Add your comment:
Advertisement

More »Latest Articles & Blog Posts

Float Baby 'Spa' Offers Relaxing Pool Paradise for Babies

Float Baby 'Spa' Offers Relaxing Pool Paradise for Babies

Infants chill in calm waters, literally, at a Houston business complete with gentle massage for wee ones. Is it over-the-top pampering or actually beneficial?

Bacon Recipes for Every Meal

Bacon Recipes for Every Meal

From Kraft's bacon breakfast cupcakes to bacon-wrapped meatloaf, there are tons of ways to incorporate bacon into everything from breakfast to dessert. Try one of these recipes in honor of...

Back-to-School Lunch Notes Craft Project

Back-to-School Lunch Notes Craft Project

Add an extra dash of love to your child's midday meal away from home with a customized little letter, complete with a top-class loose-leaf paper spin.

CannaMoms Fight to Legalize Medical Marijuana for Kids

CannaMoms Fight to Legalize Medical Marijuana for Kids

Three moms of severely sick children want to change Florida law to treat their kids with cannabis. Opponents worry about lack of research and possible dangers.

Tips and Advice for Buying Glasses Online for Kids

Tips and Advice for Buying Glasses Online for Kids

Ever considered purchasing eyeglasses on the Internet for your child? A local optometrist offers insight into the process – and what to be cautious of.

Fruit Kiddy Cocktail Recipes from The Bird and The Bread

Fruit Kiddy Cocktail Recipes from The Bird and The Bread

Want to add a layer of fancy, not to mention healthy, to your kids' next snack or after-dinner dessert? Try these three recipes from the Birmingham restaurant.

Dick & Jane Baking Company Offers Smart After-School Snacks

Dick & Jane Baking Company Offers Smart After-School Snacks

A mom and dad team from Troy, Michigan teamed up to create wholesome, delicious cookies that teach kids state capitals, language, presidents and more.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement