In Kids Count Press Releases, News Releases

For Immediate Release
Feb. 27, 2020

Alex Rossman

NOTE: Some county data is included in this report and additional data is available upon request for several maternal and infant health indicators.

According to Right Start report, policy change and increased funding needed to help Michigan turn around national standing on maternal and infant mortality

 Lansing—With the right investments, Michigan’s policymakers have the opportunity to correct the currently dismal outcomes for mothers and infants in the state, according to a new report from the Michigan League for Public Policy. The report, Strong Moms for Thriving Babies: Right Start 2020, examines the ways in which Michigan can use policies to improve the well-being of mothers and infants in Michigan.

According to the report, Michigan currently ranks 36th in the nation in terms of infant mortality and 30th in the nation for maternal mortality, and numbers are even more dire for moms and babies of color. Black infants in Michigan are more than twice as likely to die before age one than White infants.

“Policymakers really have an opportunity here to show their commitment to moms and babies, who are the foundation of a strong Michigan. It’s not going to be simple—a host of factors play a part in maternal and infant health—but we have evidence that the policy changes we’re recommending can go a long way in improving outcomes,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, President and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

High-quality, comprehensive healthcare from preconception through the postpartum period is key, according to the report.

“Right now, Medicaid covers roughly 44 percent of all births in Michigan, but moms only have postpartum Medicaid coverage for the first 60 days after their child is born. Extending that coverage for the first year of a baby’s life means women have access to the care they need to heal after childbirth and manage physical and mental health conditions that could jeopardize their well-being and their infant’s well-being,” Jacobs said.

Racial disparities persist in the health of moms and babies, a fact that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer noted in her State of the State address last month and included in her Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies initiative. The report raises this issue, pointing out that the maternal mortality rate for Black women is three to four times that of White women. But according to the report, those trends are not the result of genetic differences or behaviors, but the result of racism and bias in our systems and communities. Right Start encourages policymakers to explore the health implications of racial discrimination in our society, which can lead to chronic stress and early health deterioration.

“We’ve all seen the scary headlines about outcomes for Black moms and babies. But it’s important to note that these negative statistics stem not from who these mothers are, but from the discrimination they face in systems like hospitals and schools. We don’t want to terrify Black women who are thinking about starting a family by telling them they’re in danger. We want to dismantle the racism and White supremacy that places them at risk. Gov. Whitmer’s Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies initiative includes a plan to partner with healthcare providers and universities to focus on implicit bias and barriers women of color confront when they seek healthcare, which is a good start,” Jacobs said.

Nonmedical factors like systemic racism, economic insecurity and lack of paid parental leave greatly influence health outcomes for mothers and infants, and the report recommends creating structural change, expanding Michigan’s Earned Income Tax Credit and developing family-friendly workplace policies to help strengthen Michigan’s families.

The Right Start report stresses the value of state and federal lawmakers investing in the expansion of home visiting programs, highly successful programs that offer moms and their children valuable health screenings, connecting families to other needed services and encouraging positive parenting practices shown to increase bonding between parent and child and early language development in young children.

The Right Start report also highlights the importance of broadening healthcare reimbursement rates for health services shown to optimize maternal and infant health outcomes, including doula services, group prenatal care and lactation consultation.


Background: Improving maternal and infant health through policy change has been a priority for the Michigan League for Public Policy and its Kids Count in Michigan project for decades. Here are some additional materials on the subject:
2021 Budget Priority: Support Maternal and Infant Health (December 2019)

Healthy Michigan Plan Work Requirements: Impact on Maternal and Child Health (December 2019)

2019 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book and Kids Count Profiles by County (April 2019)


The Kids Count in Michigan project is part of a broad national effort to improve conditions for children and their families. Funding for the project is provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, The Skillman Foundation, Steelcase Foundation, Michigan Education Association, American Federation of Teachers Michigan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, DTE Energy Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund, Battle Creek Community Foundation, and the Fetzer Institute. More state and local data are available at the Kids Count Data Center,

The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

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