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Report: Too Many MI Babies Don't Get the Right Start

PHOTO: Giving Michigan babies the right start is the focus of a new report from the Michigan League for Public Policy, which finds major disparities between babies born in the state's city compared with outlying areas. Photo credit: Paul Anderson / Morguefile.com.
PHOTO: Giving Michigan babies the right start is the focus of a new report from the Michigan League for Public Policy, which finds major disparities between babies born in the state's city compared with outlying areas. Photo credit: Paul Anderson / Morguefile.com.
June 17, 2014

LANSING, Mich. - Planning for a better future for Michigan means investing in the state's kids before they're even born. That's according to a new report from the Michigan League for Public Policy, which looks at maternal and infant well-being across the state.

Jane Zehnder-Merrell, director of Kids Count in Michigan, says babies born to women in Michigan's "legacy cities" - 15 former industrial powerhouses that have born the brunt of the state's economic decline - are much worse off than those born in other areas of the state.

"What you have in these cities is a concentration of disadvantage, and you also have a concentration by race and ethnicity," says Zehnder-Merrell.

Legacy cities fared worse on all factors, including the number of teen births, the mother's education level, smoking during pregnancy, babies born too small, and babies born too soon. To reverse the trend, the report recommends the state fully fund its Infant Mortality Reduction plan, strengthen child care, education, and training opportunities and commit to an anti-smoking campaign.

Zehnder-Merrell says while Michigan has made a sizable investment in early childhood education, there is still much more to be done when it comes to breaking the cycle.

"Frankly, we really can't wait until a child is four to begin to pay attention," she says. "We know that simply adding more income into the family improves the outcome for kids, because poverty is the biggest issue."

Roughly one-quarter of all Michigan newborns were born to women living in these cities, according to the analysis. The full report, Right Start 2014, is available on the Michigan League for Public Policy website.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI