STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.
State of Opportunity will be shining a spotlight on the issue of infant mortality this winter. Check back for news, resources, and personal stories.

Good news: Michigan is making progress to stop infant mortality

Gabi Menashe

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.

But there's one indicator we've spent a lot of time tracking here at State of Opportunity, and it seems to be one spot where Michigan is actually making progress. The Kids Count report (which you can read in full here) shows that infant mortality rates for African American mothers dropped by more than a third in Michigan from 2000 - 2013. 

Credit Kids Count in Michigan Data Book 2015 / Michigan League for Public Policy
Michigan League for Public Policy

Despite the progress, it's clear from the chart that there's a lot of work still left to do. Black babies are still twice as likely to die in their first year as white babies. It's just that, 13 years ago, they were three times as likely to die. 

We can learn something from the progress that's been made so far. The decline in infant mortality rates for African Americans in Michigan hasn't happened by accident. Many people have been pouring time and resources into solving this problem specifically. Doctors, nurses, social workers and others have been trained on the roots of the problem, and how to attack it.

And while this is an immense and important problem, the results so far show that it is not unsolvable. The state needs to keep doing what it's been doing. To learn about those efforts, check out my colleague Jennifer Guerra's excellent documentary on Michigan's infant mortality problem here

Dustin Dwyer is a reporter on the State of Opportunity project, based in Grand Rapids. Previously, he worked as an online journalist for Changing Gears, as a freelance reporter and as Michigan Radio's West Michigan Reporter. Before he joined Michigan Radio, Dustin interned at NPR's Talk of the Nation, wrote freelance stories for The Jackson Citizen-Patriot and completed a Reporting & Writing Fellowship at the Poynter Institute.
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