Throughout the years, one of the best and more reliable means to evaluate a community’s overall health and access to quality medical care is to look at its infant mortality rate.
The infant mortality rate in Michigan and the nation has generally decreased through the decades. Sadly, while the national rate continues to fall, the rate in Michigan has increased during the past three years.
One reason that infant mortality is often used as an indicator of a community’s accessibility to health care is that those families without prenatal care are at the greatest risk of having critical pregnancy problems, including premature birth, low birth weight and, tragically, even death.
While these issues are not limited to young mothers, babies of teenage mothers are the most likely to die in the first year of life – both nationally and in Michigan. Although it is important that all expecting mothers get the medical care they need during pregnancy and following birth, if we as a society are going to turn around Michigan’s growing infant mortality problem, we must begin with helping young mothers.
Thankfully, Southwest Michigan is blessed to have two of the five outstanding programs, one in Berrien County and another in Kalamazoo which have been successful in bringing together nurses and at-risk, first-time mothers. The results have been extraordinary.
I have advocated for a smarter, more efficient and cost-effective government. I support the Nurse-Family Partnership program because it is an excellent illustration of good public policy in action as it saves the lives of children.
The program sends nurses on home visits with vulnerable young mothers to help them have a healthy pregnancy and delivery and to become good, responsible parents.
In doing so, the program improves access to prenatal care, improves pregnancy outcomes, betters the lives of at-risk young parents and their babies.
I applaud the governor for highlighting this program as a “bright spot in our state” in his recent message on health and wellness. He noted that “the program has demonstrated improved prenatal health, reduced childhood injuries and abuse, and lessened mental health problems for the children. This, in turn, has resulted in cost reductions to government and society, as well as better lives for families starting out on the lowest rungs of the economic and health care ladders.”
Unfortunately only five Michigan counties are currently served by a partnership program, which is largely financially supported by local funds and donations. For information on the Berrien County program, residents can visit the website at www.bchdmi.org/nurse-family.htm. Information on the national Nurse-Family Partnership Program, including ways to donate, is available at www.nursefamilypartnership.org.
I support the governor’s goal of helping expand this successful program to other Michigan communities by securing $1.5 billion in federal funds over the next five years.
If we can replicate on the state level, the positive results already manifesting in Southwest Michigan, this will greatly help us reduce both short- and long-term medical costs, as well as save lives and ensure all Michigan children are prepared for a healthy, successful life.
State Senator – 21st District