When it comes to a healthy start for all children in Detroit, I don’t want to talk about teens or unwed mothers. I want to talk about babies starting out life with a real disadvantage–and what we’re going to do about it.
This month, Data Driven Detroit released a ground-breaking study –”Right Start in Detroit 2009: Maternal and Infant Well-Being in the City of Detroit, 2000-2007.” We worked with the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion to look at birth statistics by neighborhood–something that has never been done before in the city. What we found is that maternal and infant well-being varies vastly from neighborhood to neighborhood.
In Palmer Woods, only 10 percent of births are to teen mothers. In the Winterhalter subcommunity, nearly one in three babies is born to a teenager. The Vernor and Chadsey-Condon subcommunities have the highest shares of mothers without high school diplomas. And despite an overall decrease in the Detroit birth rate between 2000 and 2007, the Chadsey-Condon and Jeffries subcommunities have both registered an increase in the same period.
Our study really shows that place matters. Where you live can affect how you start out in life, and it can profoundly affect your ability to thrive for years to come.
Getting public policy off to a Right Start
The policy implications are clear. We would be smart to target our thinly-stretched resources directly at the problem we are trying to address.If five communities have 24 percent or more births to teens–Osborn (24 percent), St. Jean (25 percent), Conner (25 percent), Burbank (26 percent) and Winterhalter (27 percent)-then perhaps those communities should be getting the lion’s share of our prevention, education and maternal health care services. That’s why good, accurate research is key to developing effective public policy that makes real change to the lives of those who live in Detroit.
Which brings me to my second point. One study is not enough to answer critical questions about mother-child outcomes in Detroit. We know that in the Conner subcommunity, nearly half of the infants received inadequate prenatal care. What the study does not reveal is why. Is there a lack of health care institutions in the area? Do the mothers lack health insurance? Is there a cultural mistrust of doctors? Are there language or educational barriers? Are cigarettes and liquor more available in the community than fresh fruits and vegetables?
Data Driven Detroit’s report has been well-received in the media. It’s my hope that it’s not only a “Right Start” for the mothers and children in Detroit, but it marks a right start for the use of data to inform public policy as well. To find out the results for your neighborhood, click on the links below: