Report shows drop for state, Marquette County


Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — The infant death rates for Michigan and Marquette County show a downward trend, according to the Michigan League for Public Policy’s latest Right Start policy report.

The report, “2017 Right Start: Infant death rates decline in Michigan, other trends raise concerns,” examines maternal and infant health indicators statewide, by race and a select number of cities and townships in the state.

As a whole, Michigan has made gains regarding the health of mothers and babies. The share of births to women under age 20 decreased by almost 37 percent from 2010 to 2015, and the rate of second or more births to teens already mothers declined by about 6 percent.

Regarding infant mortality, the statewide rate dropped from 7.1 percent in 2011 to 6.8 in 2015. Marquette County showed a drop during 2011 to 2015 from 5.1 percent to 4.3 percent.

Births to teens under age 20 dropped statewide from 2011 to 2015 from 9.4 percent to 6.3 percent. This compares with Marquette County’s decrease from 5 percent to 4.8 percent during that same period.

The percentage of low birthweight babies in Michigan born from 2011 to 2015 stayed the same at 8.4 percent. Marquette County showed an increase from 6.8 percent to 7.3 percent.

Births to unwed mothers showed an upward trend in Michigan from 2011 to 2015 from 42.1 percent to 42.6 percent. Marquette County also showed a change from 35.4 percent to 34.2 percent during those years.

In the category of repeat teen births ages 15-19, Michigan showed a decrease from 17.5 percent in 2011 to 17 percent in 2015. Marquette County showed a downward trend, with 13.1 percent in 2011 to 10.2 percent in 2015.

Statewide, the number of births to mothers with no diploma or GED dropped from 2011 to 2015 from 15.2 percent to 12.5 percent. In Marquette County, the drop was 5.6 percent to 5.3 percent.

In the category of births with late or no prenatal care, there was an upward trend in the state from 4.4 percent in 2011 to 5.3 percent in 2015. Marquette County showed a decrease, 4.8 percent to 3.7 percent.

For preterm births, the state and Marquette County showed increases from 2011-15. Statewide, they went up 10.6 percent to 12.2 percent. In the county, the increase was 9.9 percent to 10.4 percent.

The percentage of births to mothers who smoked during pregnancy stayed the same from 2011-15 statewide at 18.4 percent. In Marquette, though, it dropped from 27.8 percent to 26.7 percent.

Other improvements were shown in Michigan and Marquette County regarding students eligible for free or reduced lunch. Fewer kids were eligible statewide, going down from 48.2 percent in 2012 to 45.8 percent in 2016. The numbers went down in the county as well, from 37.9 percent in 2012 to 35.5 percent in 2016.

While overall progress has been made to reduce the number of Michigan babies who die in their first year, the infant death rate increased 15 percent for Hispanic babies and is approaching nearly double the infant death rate of whites. Also, African-American babies are more than twice as likely to die before their first birthdays as white babies.

“It is certainly reassuring that we’re seeing fewer infant deaths statewide and other maternal and infant health factors are improving, but it’s important for us to view the data from all angles and examine these racial disparities,” Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count in Michigan project director with the Michigan League for Public Policy, said in a news release.

The Michigan League for Public Policy recommended in the report that policymakers reduce disparities by race and ethnicity. For instance, attention must be placed on adequate prenatal care for women of color.

It also recommends protecting the Affordable Care Act, which guarantees maternity health coverage, expanded Medicaid to about 650,000 Michigan residents with low incomes and helped to provide essential healthcare services for women.

Other recommendations from the league include expanding home visiting programs to support vulnerable women and infants, and placing emphasis on addressing the social determinants of health.

Amy Zaagman, executive director of the Michigan Council for Maternal & Child Health, said in a news release: “Home visiting programs to support vulnerable women and infants have proven very effective and resulted in improved access to prenatal care, fewer preterm births and increased well-child visits across the state.”

The MLPP, based in Lansing, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on equal economic opportunity.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is