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Report: overall infant mortality rate is down, but Michigan still has problems to address

Sono Tamaki
Creative Commons
Infant mortality is much higher among African-Americans and Hispanics than whites in Michigan.

The overall infant mortality rate fell in Michigan over the last three years, but many trends remain troubling, especially when it comes to the health of minority babies and mothers.

As a part of the Kids Count in Michigan project, the Michigan League of Public Policy published its annual Right Start: Maternal and Child Health Report Wednesday, and found that although the state’s infant mortality rate is down overall, there is a growing gap in the health of white and minority babies.

From the MLPP press release:

“The 2017 report compares 2010 (2008-2010 three-year average) to 2015 (2013-2015 three-year average) and highlights infant mortality trends in the state. While overall improvement has been made to reduce the number of Michigan babies who die before their first birthdays, the infant death rate increased 15 percent for Hispanic babies and is approaching nearly double the infant death rate of whites. And African-American babies are more than twice as likely to die before their first birthdays as White babies.”

Credit Michigan League for Public Policy
Infant mortality rates by race.

The report highlights a variety of troubling racial disparities.

For example, the overall smoking rate among expectant mothers rose slightly, but the rate for white women was stable, while the increase was significant for Hispanic and African-American mothers.

Other troubling findings include a 20% increase in the number of babies born prematurely and a slight increase to 5.3% of mothers that received late or no prenatal care.

(It should be noted, however, that Michigan’s Medicaid expansion began enrollment in April 2014, and only influenced eight months of the report’s results.)

Credit Michigan League for Public Policy
Infant mortality rates by county, 2013-2015.

Among the more promising statistics is the falling rate of births among teenagers, which fell by nearly 37% from 2010 to 2015.

The Michigan League of Public Policy cites the protection of the Affordable Care Act, investments in prenatal resources for women of color, and “addressing the social determinants of health" as crucial steps that can improve maternal and infant health across the state.

You can read more about the Right Start report, and see data from individual counties, here.

This story has been updated. Michigan's Medicaid expansion affected eight months of the data, not one year as previously written.

Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
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