Right Start For Your Child's Life

By: Meaghan M. Norman Email
By: Meaghan M. Norman Email

New mothers in Lansing have the worst pre-term delivery rate in the state. That's just one of the startling facts about Mid-Michigan in a new report. Worse yet, it may not get any better and neither will the child's future, any time soon.

A pregnant woman's race and economic circumstance can create disadvantaged children.

"The most shocking statistic was two out of every five births in michigan are in high risk communities," said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, senior research associate of the Michigan League for Human Services.

That's data from the Right Start in Michigan 2010 Report which tracks infant and maternal health.

Shureka Young is a single mother who gave birth to her son, Maurcus five months early.

"He was 1lb. 10 oz," said Young. "I didn't know what to do. I was scared. I was like, 'Is he going to live?"

Maurcus is now a healthy and active 1 year old. But without the help of the Department of Human Services and the Ingham County Health Department, Young believes she wouldn't have made it.

"It affected me kinda bad. It was stressful. I wondered what i was going to do," said Young.

Sadly, her story is not unique.

"There are more women living in poverty, more women unemployed and unfortunately health benefits are tied to employment so when you're not working, you're impoverished and the stop-gap measure is Medicaid services," said Renee Canady, deputy health officer of the Ingham Count Health Department.

It's a cycle that can have widespread ramifications. Canady added that if mothers can't get prenatal care, post-pregnancy care, can't afford good schools --- it lessens the chance of their child's success in life.

"A lot is linked to race and ethnicity but also socio-economic issues --- high rates of medicaid births," said Zehnder-Merrell.

More than half of the births in lansing and jackson are paid for by medicaid. 62 percent of all births in Lansing are paid for by Medicaid, 64 percent in Jackson and 56 percent in Detroit.

And over the ten year span of the study --- more babies are being born early in lansing. While the number in a detroit -- a much larger city ---- is going down.

In Lansing, premature births of white babies has increased by 21 percent compared to decreasing in Detroit by 21 percent. Black babies born early increased by 29 percent compared to a decrease of 9 percent in Detroit. And Hispanic babies had a 26 percent increase while Detroit had a 4 percent decrease.

"This current spike in the city of Lansing in pre-term deliveries could be associated with a number of cuts the school districts have had to make, the health department has had to make and we're starting to see that snowball," said Canady.

Many worthwhile programs like the one Lansing's Head Start program aim to make a difference and change some of the statistics but because of the lack of funding a lot of the programs are getting cut.

"There's no funding right now but we need to make choices for cutting; they're all hard choices," said Canady.

Impoverished mothers, poorly educated mothers, single mothers without any support, teen mothers ---- the number of women under those circumstances is growing and health officials predict it will continue until there's enough money for adequate intervention.

Canady added that when funding is cut to a particular program it's often before any effect can be appreciated.

For a look at the report in more detail, including data related to teen pregancies, the rise in births by unwed mothers and more, click on the link below.

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