Infant Mortality

State of Opportunity will be shining a spotlight on the issue of infant mortality this winter. Check back for news, resources, and personal stories.

Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

Angels Above Baby Gowns takes all those dresses you only wear once and put away, like wedding and bridesmaid gowns, or prom dresses – and turn them into burial gowns for babies. They call them "angel gowns." Then, they give them to parents and hospitals, for free.

Dawn Lafferty started Angels Above two years ago after reading a news story about a mom in the state of Washington whose son died at birth. The mom went home and made a gown to bury him in out of her old wedding dress. Lafferty, who has been sewing since she was 10 years old, says she thought it was a great idea.

Swaddled baby
Scott Granneman / Flickr CC / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Swaddling – the practice of snugly wrapping an infant with a light cloth, with only the head exposed – mimics the warm, cozy environment of the mother's womb. It's reported to promote better sleep for babies.

But a new study in the journal Pediatrics links the practice to an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Donnie Ray Jones / Flickr Creative Commons / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

When I saw a headline about babies sleeping in boxes today as I was scrolling through the news on my phone, I thought it was a joke.

But it turns out it really is a thing.

Since 1938, Finland's government has provided all expectant moms, regardless of economic status, with a maternity box filled with clothes, bedding, and products used in the first few months of a baby's life.

flickr.com/nichd

Colin Parks gets an email alert almost every time a baby in Michigan dies in their sleep.

Parks is head of Michigan’s Child Protective Services, and he tells me he gets far too many of these emails; they arrive almost every other day.

“In Michigan,” he says, “we lose about 140 to 150 infants a year, and that’s a number that’s been pretty static over time.”

It’s been static, even though Parks, and everyone else who works on infant safety has been desperately trying to get the message out. The message is for all babies to sleep alone, on their back and in an empty crib. To simplify, they use a slogan - ABC - alone, back, crib.

Brittany Bartkowiak

We just celebrated Mother's Day, and Father's Day is right around the corner. Lots of people look forward to these special days. But not everyone. For some, Mother’s and Father’s Day is not a happy holiday.

It’s one that can cause a lot of grief.

Gabi Menashe / Flickr

The Michigan League for Public Policy released its latest Kids Count report this morning. The report tries to quantify how our state's children are doing, by breaking down dozens of indicators. My colleague Lindsey Smith has the scoop on the overall trends: some education indicators are improving, while poverty rates and neglect cases are on the rise.

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.

Personal stories of babies born too small, too early or gone too soon

Oct 10, 2012
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.

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