Trying to make sense of Michigan's high infant mortality rate

Aug 30, 2012

Credit user Brad Brundage / Flickr

When it comes to keeping infants alive in Michigan, we're not doing that great a job.

Michigan's infant mortality rate has been higher than the national average for more than two decades. 

Here are the latest numbers:

For every 1,000 babies born in Michigan, roughly seven won't make it to their first birthday.

And if you happen to be born black, your chances of surviving infancy are even worse. African American babies in Michigan are two and a half times more likely than white babies to die before they turn one.

State of Opportunity's Dustin Dwyer put the disparity in context for us when he reported on infant mortality rates earlier this week:

Say you compare the infant mortality rate for African Americans in Michigan to the national rates for every other country in the world. Using a three-year moving average for Michigan's rate, we’d be behind every advanced nation, tucked between countries like Malaysia and Syria.

And the disparities don't stop there. According to the latest numbers from the Michigan Department of Community Health, infant mortality rates for Native American, Hispanic, and, to a lesser degree, Arabic babies born in Michigan are higher than their white counterparts.

So what's the deal? Why haven't we been able to solve this whole infant mortality problem in Michigan? Sure, getting the infant mortality rate down to zero might be pie in the sky, but reducing the rate shouldn't have to be. What do we know? What don't we know? What's working?

I'll tackle those questions and more in our first State of Opportunity documentary, which will air early next month. Stay tuned for more details.