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New report outlines policies to reduce Michigan’s high infant mortality rate

A new report outlines how Michigan can reduce its infant mortality rates.

The report, from the Michigan League for Public Policy, finds the state ranks 36th in the nation for its infant health outcomes.

Nationally, infant mortality rates are roughly 5.8 deaths for one-thousand live births. In Michigan that number climbs to roughly 6.6.

Amber Bellazaire is with the League.

“In terms of how do we make change and how to we turn the tide I’d say there is a lot that we can begin to do and that’s what this report tries to highlight.”

Bellazaire said one thing the League advocates for is extending Medicaid coverage. Medicaid covers some 44% of births in Michigan - but only for the first 60 days of a baby’s life.

Bellazaire says Medicaid should cover the first year.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer proposed a similar expansion as part of her 2021 budget announcement earlier this year.

The Governor’s proposal included a $37-million dollar budget appropriation for an initiative called “healthy moms, healthy babies” which would provide services to improve infant and maternal health outcomes.

Bellazaire said the League supports that initiative.

“One facet of that initiative includes home visiting. We know that home visiting has a robust evidence base to suggest a lot of great benefits for women and young children who participate in those programs.”

There are also clear racial disparities in health outcomes for both babies and mothers. The infant mortality rate is three times as high for black babies compared to white.

“For maternal mortality rates black women tend to die 3 to 4 times more than their white counterparts,” Bellazaire said.

According to Bellazaire, the disparities are likely a mix of economic and healthcare-system related factors.