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YWCA program focuses on closing gap in infant mortality

YWCA program focuses on closing gap in infant mortality

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Babies of color are four times more likely to die before their first birthday, compared to white babies.

But now, the University of California-Berkeley has chosen Kalamazoo to help limit that rate.

YWCA is one of the organizations working with UC-Berkeley.

One area of focus in reducing infant mortality rates is better access to quality healthcare and education.

Not all babies in Kalamazoo live to see their first birthday. Health professionals say the risk is even higher for infants of color.

“People think infant mortality equals being a bad parent, and it's not that. That's why we're saying we have to look at things that our community members see when they walk out their home,” said Terra Bautista, with Healthy Babies Healthy Start.

The city's minority infants are four times more likely to die before age one compared to white babies, regardless of a family's wealth or educational background.

“This isn't a number floating in the air that we're pulling down and saying this might be happening. It's real. We see families in our community that are hurting,” Bautista said.

With the help of the University of California-Berkeley, local organizations will soon work together to research and help reduce the city's infant mortality rate.

“We're looking at your health, we're looking at the economics, we're looking at the environmental factors, where you live where you eat, play, breathe, go to school and how all of those things interplay into your health,” said Bautista.

Grant money through the university will fund their research and data analysis, as part of UC-Berkeley’s Best Babies Zone initiative. Their focus will be on the north side neighborhood and what resources are needed to address the areas health concerns.

“We aren't going into that space saying this is what you're going to do. We're hearing back from the community to allow them to tap into the resources to make sure the community is viable,” said Bautista.

In an effort to save more babies lives in this city, what researchers find here could save lives in other communities.

“(This) puts Kalamazoo on a national spotlight to really show just how you work with communities and how you can bridge gaps so that you are really being a voice of the community,” said Aisha Walters, with the YWCA.

One thing to note, is that health professionals say they have seen a decline in the number of infant deaths in the city. They hope this new project will continue those efforts.

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