Infant mortality rate for African-American babies in Kalamazoo among state's highest

Infant mortality rate for African-American babies in Kalamazoo among state's highest

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The infant mortality rate for African-American babies in Kalamazoo is one of the highest in the state.

Our community has been gathering data for the last year, and now we're learning how local organizations plan to tackle the problem.

Cradle Kalamazoo is a coalition made up of about 30 business and community organizations, all dedicated to reducing the infant mortality rate in Kalamazoo County, with the YWCA at the forefront.

Just released Friday, was a resolution drafted by County Commissioner Julie Rogers, to make sure the county is held accountable for this goal.

The death rate for African-American babies in our community is both staggering and heartbreaking, says Kalamazoo YWCA CEO Grace Lubwana.

"Black babies in our community are dying at a rate four times higher than their white neighbors," she said.

14.5 black babies per thousand births die, compared to 4.7 white babies. That puts Kalamazoo in line with cities like Detroit, Flint and Saginaw.

Lubwana says the mission of the Cradle Kalamazoo coalition is to drop that number by the year 2020.

"Close the racial disparity to at least 6 and then keep doing the work until all babies in this community flourish in kind of the same way," she said.

Lubwana says lack of access to pre-natal care and education, poverty, and unsafe environments are factors.

"Even the upper middle class are having their infants die at a higher rate, which usually leads to the conclusion of some sort of systemic racism," Rogers said.

Rogers hopes to address that systemic racism in a new resolution.

She wants to create an equity task force to access racial bias in our county and address it.

"Making sure that our employees are trained in equitable treatment of all of our citizens," she said.

Once the root causes of infant deaths are uncovered, the real work in preventing those deaths can begin.

"I hope that we as a community hold each other accountable and say we said we were going to do this and commit to doing it," Lubwana said.

The infant mortality resolution will be presented to county commissioners and the public at next Tuesday's meeting.

Then next Thursday, Cradle Kalamazoo will host a meeting to discuss their initiative.

More information on that meeting can be found here.

More information on the YWCA Infant Mortality Initiative can be found here.

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