Tonda Thompson holds her newborn son, Jehlani Rashid, at her home in Milwaukee. Thompson was featured in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s article “Milwaukee’s infant mortality numbers improve but the racial disparity is still wide”. Photo credit: Mike De Sisti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The Milwaukee Health Department released Milwaukee’s 2016 preliminary infant mortality data and the 2012-2015 Fetal and Infant Mortality Review (FIMR) report this week.
Though the infant mortality rate has declined, racial disparities in birth outcomes persist, revealing that there is still work to be done on many levels. The City of Milwaukee Health department suggests three main areas of action to continue to improve Milwaukee’s birth outcomes:
- Improve access to quality medical care, especially for women with infections, chronic medical conditions, or prior preterm birth
- Improve individual behaviors, such as smoking and safe sleep
- Reduce lifecourse stressors (which may be the most important drivers of prematurity) across a wide range of areas, from safe neighborhoods and fatherhood involvement to early childhood education and job preparation programs
The Milwaukee FIMR Case Review Team recommends three complementary and related strategies:
- Increase access to quality healthcare and community-based services across the lifespan
- Promote planned pregnancies and access to reproductive health services
- Advocate for comprehensive strategies to address social determinants of health including safe and equitable community living environments
Each of these strategies is part of the work of the Milwaukee LIHF Collaborative. Media covering the data and report release spoke with members of the Milwaukee LIHF Collaborative to learn more about the work that is going on and what still needs to be done.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel piece “Milwaukee’s infant mortality numbers improve but the racial disparity is still wide” contextualizes the recent data release through Tonda Thompson’s personal story. Thompson, an advocate for babies in Milwaukee and Milwaukee LIHF’s Community Engagement Coordinator, shared her view that:
The solution is the community… We can handle this. Come. Look how beautiful we are.”
Fox6 also covered the story and spoke with Nicole Angresano, member of the Milwaukee LIHF Steering Committee and Vice President for Community Impact at United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County. Angresano stated that as the work continues,
One of the ways that we are going to make sure that [the infant mortality rate] comes down even further is by making sure we focus on policy and system changes.”
Milwaukee LIHF’s current and upcoming work includes policy, systems, and environmental change efforts like implementing a “One Key Question” pilot project to support pregnancy intention and prenatal health, promoting public awareness for the factors that make for healthy pregnancies and a healthy first year of life through the Strong Baby Campaign, and developing policy recommendations at the local and state level that will support healthy families.