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Infant death in Detroit

Loretta Davis (left) and Leseliey Welch          PHOTO COURTESY IPH

Loretta Davis (left) and Leseliey Welch PHOTO COURTESY IPH

“We have babies dying before they are one-year-old who don’t have to die,” says Leseliey Welch of Detroit’s Institute for Population Health. This year, the IPH was awarded a three-year $375,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to strengthen and grow the public health infrastructure for mothers and babies in Detroit.

Today, infant mortality is the number one killer of Detroit’s children and the city’s rate is that of a Third World nation, the worst of the nation’s big cities.  The grant is intended to help improve the city’s birth outcomes.

“So many pregnancies end well. We take for granted that pregnancy will end well,” says Loretta V. Davis, IPH President and CEO, but she wants Detroit mothers to understand pregnancy is a medical state.

Mothers need to understand their health status and seek out prenatal care.

Too many Detroit babies are too small, born early or late preterm. These babies have a greater risk of dying before the age of one or having other complications.

Diabetes, smoking, drinking and being overweight can negatively impact a pregnancy, says Davis, who urges women to visit the IPH clinics.

Birth control services and maternal health services are also currently available through IPH.

Once babies have arrived, Davis says mothers must also know how to take care of newborns.

Safe sleep is important.

“Pregnancy and birth are a natural part of life, but we need to take it seriously. We have (habits) passed from generation to generation and a belief that if mama or grandmama did it, it’s ok,” says Davis.

Babies shouldn’t be put in beds with adults or older children. They also shouldn’t sleep with toys or blanks that could cause suffocation.

Davis says we also don’t always know about infant death in our community because “when a child died before the first birthday, it is an isolated grief.”

The child hasn’t gone to school yet or been brought into the wider community.

For an appointment or information on services call 313.309.9350 or visit

— Staff report

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