Strategy to reduce infant mortality rate in Detroit must have strong medical and social component, says Davis

January 30, 2014

In a Detroit News article on Detroit's high infant mortality rate, Dr. Matthew Davis discusses the challenges to making progress on infant deaths, as well as the potential impact of expanded insurance coverage for low-income mothers. Detroit's infant mortality rate (which in 2010 was 13.5 for every 1,000 live births) is the worst among U.S. cities and rivals that of some countries in the developing world.

Davis, who serves as the chief medical executive for the state of Michigan, noted that making progress on infant deaths is so challenging because it is a "powerful combination of fragile health and vulnerable economic situations." He stressed that any successful strategy to reduce infant mortality must have both a strong medical approach and a concerted social component.

Davis also noted that the expansion of Medicaid eligibility to nearly 500,000 more Michigan residents, which will take effect on April 1, could have a significant impact on Detroit's infant mortality problem. He explained that women who are not pregnant or nursing are currently ineligible for Medicaid, which results in many low-income women entering pregnancy in poor health. He stressed that people in Lansing and the Department of Community Health are aware that infant deaths must remain the main focus of their programs and that the health of mothers is crucial to this effort. He stated:

"[Pregnant women] might not have had routine health care themselves, and may not be entering that pregnancy with optimal health or having appropriate care for health problems like high blood pressure or diabetes that place their babies at higher risk for health problems. The Healthy Michigan plan will likely provide coverage to many women and allow them to identify and get treatment for health problems before they get pregnant so they can get treatment and have healthier babies."