infant mortality

Sarah Alvarez / Michigan Radio

At 3:30 p.m on a recent week day, I showed up to the College and Career Access Center in Jackson Crossing. It’s a strip mall, where right next to an army recruitment office sits what amounts to a storefront guidance counselor’s office. It’s accessible to anyone in the community, of any age.

Each of the county’s 13 school districts made a tough choice to give up their discretionary funds to pay for it, and hire a few college and career advisors they could share to help them reach their goal of getting 60 percent of Jackson’s residents to have a college degree or career credential by 2025.

When I showed up there were 16 people waiting for me, from the Superintendent of the Intermediate School District to the County Commissioner to the editor of Jackson’s newspaper. They were all there to tell me about what’s going on in Jackson.

“We roll deep in Jackson!” Kriss Giannetti explains. Gianetti is one of the founders of a group called Jackson 2020. Over the last three years they’ve been working together to tackle some of Jackson’s toughest problems.

While we talked, a steady stream of people walked into the center to talk to the college and career advisors or use a computer bank to our left. They were getting help with things like financial aid questions and career training. Recent high school graduate Courtney Reese was one of them. Reese is moving to Washington State this month to go to community college there, but she says she won’t stay too long.

“I’m definitely coming back here,” she says emphatically.  “We have a lot of self-pride. There’s people with "517" tattoos on them and they’re showing Jackson pride. And I just think that’s really cool. Especially with the reputation we have.”

The cavalry isn't coming

Jackson does have a reputation as a city with plenty of issues, or, as I heard said more than once “truths.” It’s not unlike most, if not all, Michigan cities trying to resurrect themselves from decades of economic depression.

2013 Michigan Health Equity Status Report / Michigan Department of Community Health

My colleague Steve Carmody reported yesterday on a new study looking at the social factors at play in Michigan's higher-than-average infant mortality rate. This is a topic we've been discussing on State of Opportunity pretty much since the project began, and our own Jennifer Guerra produced an award-winning documentary last year on the racial disparities in infant mortality. 

And if you haven't followed this reporting, let me get right to the point of it all: Researchers and public health experts now believe things like poverty and racism are literally killing babies. 

It's a strong claim, but it comes from a strong, and growing, body of research. For an overview, you should definitely check out Jennifer's documentary linked above. But if you just want a quick glance at the latest evidence, you can look at the results from the new Michigan Health Equity Status Report released yesterday. 

Here, then are eight charts from the report:

1. 

user: bradbrundage / flickr

Update: 2:06 p.m.: My colleague Dustin Dwyer was surfing the web today and came across this incredibly moving song about a young father and his son who died too soon.

Given what this web post was about today, I had to share. With lyrics like "his whole hand wrapped around my finger, he was premature / they said he need me, but I felt I really need him more," the song grabs your heart and doesn't let go.

courtesy of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

For some, State of Opportunity's documentary on Michigan’s infant mortality crisis was an introduction to the issue. 

But for others, infant loss has long been a topic of worry or grief.

JENNIFER GUERRA: I want to introduce you to a young mom, her name is Angela. She’s 21 years old. She lives with her son in a two bedroom, section eight apartment, just outside Detroit in Highland Park.

ANGELA: I have one kid and one on the way. Want me to say his name? His name is Darrion, he’s three years old.

JG: Darrion has a crazy amount of energy. He likes to bounce around his two-bedroom apartment like the springiest frog you’ve ever seen. He’s also a very big fan of toy cars. And soon, his mom tells me, Darrion is going to be a big brother.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

In our final segment of State of Opportunity, Jennifer Guerra looks at what's being done today to help ensure that all children have an equal shot at celebrating their first birth - no matter where they live, what color their skin is, or how much money their parents have in the bank.

A Healthy Start approach, or how to get the black infant mortality rate down to zero

State of Opportunity reporter Jennifer Guerra tagged along with Jenny Hall on a home visit to see a client of hers who lives near Flint. 

user seanmcgrath / Flickr

In part two of our State of Opportunity documentary on infant mortality and disparities, we ask the question: Why are black babies two and a half times more likely to die before they turn one than white babies? 

Two of the leading causes of infant mortality are babies that are born too soon or too small, and a disproportionate amount of those babies are African American. 

Growing up in a toxic soup

user tamakisono / Flickr

Behind the statistics: A personal tragedy

We talked previously about Chantania Smith and her struggle with losing a child. 

Six months into her pregnancy, Smith’s doctors discovered she had a short cervix, which is a major cause of preterm birth and a leading indicator for infant mortality.

When she went into labor a month and a half later, the umbilical cord prolapsed and came out first, and Smith was rushed to the hospital for an emergency C-section.  

On January 14, 2010, she gave birth to a little baby boy named Jerome – JJ for short. 

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Infant mortality rates in Michigan are better than they used to be, but still not good enough. 

Seven out of every 1,000 babies born in Michigan will die before their first birthday. This isn't a statistic the state is proud of, and lately there's been a lot of effort put into lowering this number.

A personal story of love, loss, and renewed hope

Oct 8, 2012
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

No one wants to lose their child at a young age. But in Michigan, it’s a reality too many parents face. 

Michigan's infant mortality rate has persistently been higher than the national rate for two decades. For every 1,000 babies born in Michigan, roughly seven won't make it to their first birthday. Break it down by race, and the numbers are even more disturbing.

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