Where do we go from here? A glimpse into Milwaukee’s Infant Mortality Crisis
A special series by Milwaukee Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families
The thought of holding the body of a lifeless infant is heartbreaking to say the least. But the reality is that far too many children in the city of Milwaukee die before their first birthday.
Health and well-being starts where we live, learn, work and play-our neighborhoods. All neighborhoods are not created equal. Therefore our opportunities for health, wellness and quality of life are not equal. Our infant mortality crisis makes this crystal clear with the highest rates of babies not living longer than 12 months dying in our neighborhoods within 53233, 53206 and 53210 zip codes.
At a time in their lives when tiny babies should be experiencing so many ‘firsts’, in many African American neighborhoods, babies and are experiencing ‘lasts.’ Last smiles, last kisses and last breaths.
“The Milwaukee Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families (LIHF) is working tirelessly to ensure the city’s most at-risk infants have the chance to live long, healthy lives by providing leadership, increasing awareness and providing resources that will help improve the city’s infant mortality rate,” said Pastor Roy Lewis, a member of the Milwaukee LIHF Transition Team.
Here are the facts:
• African American babies are 3 times more likely to die in their first year of life when compared to white infants. [i]
• The disparity between Milwaukee’s black and white infant mortality rates is among the worst in the nation.
This is a community health crisis and the Wisconsin Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families is sounding the alarm in Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha and Beloit. The Wisconsin Partnership Program at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health is dedicated to finding solutions to address this important issue. In fact, the Partnership has committed $10 million to those four cities that are participating in this important program. The Milwaukee Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families has been working hard to lay the groundwork here, locally, that will ultimately save the lives of precious babies.
To date, the initiative has finalized and presented to the community a well-designed and inclusive plan that focuses on how to improve healthy birth outcomes and reducing African-American infant health disparities. During the planning process, there has been record collaboration from all sectors of the Milwaukee community including community leaders, health professionals and residents.
Now, informed by the community’s plan and current research, 10 community and academic partnerships have developed strategies to address this crisis in Milwaukee. The Wisconsin Partnership Program recently funded $2.5 million to support Milwaukee Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families in Milwaukee and these 10 strategies.
The following agencies have been funded to implement programs based on recommendations included in the Milwaukee LIHF Community Action plan:
• A grant of up to $400,000 over three years to the Direct Assistance for Dads (DAD) Project – City of Milwaukee Health Department
• A grant of up to $400,000 over three years to The Young Parenthood project: A father Engagement Strategy for Healthy Families – Milwaukee Health Services
• A grant of up to $150,000 over three years to Normalizing Breastfeeding: Building Social Support and Community Capacity – African American Breast Feeding network
• A grant of up to $150,000 over three years to Striving to Create Healthier Communities Through Innovative Partnerships – Lovell Johnson Quality of Life Center
• A grant of up to $150,000 over three years for the Initiative for Healthy Families – United Neighborhood Centers of Milwaukee (UNCOM)
• A planning grant of up to $50,000 over two years to Engaging African American Fathers to Reduce Infant Mortality by Improving their Health Literacy – Planning Council for Health
• A planning grant of up to $50,000 over two years to Expecting Moms, Expecting Dads – Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare
• A planning grant of up to $50,000 over two years to Family Connectedness for New and Expectant Mothers – Children’s Services of Wisconsin
• A planning grant of up to $50,000 over two years to Strong Families Healthy Homes (SFFH) Extension – Pregnancy Pilot Program – Mental Health America of Wisconsin
“These funds have been provided to ensure this process continues to move forward and that there is an increased collective effort taken to reverse the crisis. An emphasis has been placed on strengthening African American families by increasing father engagement which will also help pregnant women reduce their stress levels,” explained Terron Edwards, a member of the Milwaukee LIHF Transition Team and father advocate.
“We will continue to work hard to engage neighbors, especially African American women, in a process of creating programs that are open and collaborative among organizations, while building individual abilities that lead them to experience improved birth outcomes and an improved quality of life for all residents,” explained Jessica Butler, a member of the Milwaukee LIHF Transition Team who has experienced an infant death in her family.
The Milwaukee Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families wants to get readers, like you, engaged in this important initiative and is committed to keeping the community informed about the valuable work that is being done to save the lives of innocent, precious babies. For more information, please visit www.jumpatthesunllc.com/LIHF or call 1-888-726-JUMP.
The Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families (LIHF) is the centerpiece of a multiyear evidence-based program created by the Wisconsin Partnership Program and the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health that is investigating and addressing the high incidence of African American infant mortality in the state.
[i] Milwaukee continues to experience significant racial disparities in infant mortality. The 2006-2008 3-year rolling average IMR for Milwaukee was 10.9 per 1,000 live births overall, 15.4 for Blacks, and 6.1 for Whites. By comparison, the 2009-2011 3- year rolling average IMR for Milwaukee was 10.2 overall, 14.5 for Blacks, and 5.0 for Whites. The Black: White ratio is nearly 3:1 in the latest 3-year rolling average. (Milwaukee Health Department 2012)