WSW: Coalition Mobilizes to Lower Black Infant Death Rate

Nov 20, 2014

Representatives from Kalamazoo County's medical, government, faith and other communities meet on Friday, Nov. 21st to kick off the Kalamazoo Infant Mortality Community Action Initiative.
Credit Gabi Menashe / Flickr

A strategy used in the Los Angeles area that led to a big drop in the high rate of black infants dying in the first year of birth is launching in Kalamazoo in hopes of similar results here, its lead organizer says.  

Kalamazoo YWCA CEO Grace Lubwama
Credit Earlene McMichael

Grace Lubwama, who was the head of that campaign, is now the CEO of the YWCA of Kalamazoo. She and representatives from the local medical, government, faith and other communities meet from 9 to 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 21st to form the Kalamazoo Infant Mortality Community Action Initiative. They'll convene at the Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, at 300 Portage St. in downtown Kalamazoo. 

In an interview on WMUK's WestSouthwest, Lubwama urged members of the public to attend as well, saying broad involvement of the community was key in the results achieved by the Antelope Valley Best Babies Collaborative that she spearheaded. Participating in the interview with Lubwama was Deborah Davenport, director of Community Health Services in the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. (Davenport and two other of Lubwama's colleagues on the Best Babies project in California will be joining Friday's kickoff meeting via video conference.)

According to Lubwama, black babies in Kalamazoo County died at almost five times a higher rate than whites in 2013. 

Lubwama says the YWCA of Kalamazoo will coordinate the work of the Kalamazoo Infant Mortality Community Action Initiative. She explains that it is a natural fit given that empowering women is among her agency's core missions, and the issue of infant mortality in particular has relevance for those it serves.

"When you look at the data, we have women who have been abused," Lubwama says. "Eighty percent of the women who come to us are pregnant." 

Other partners on Kalamazoo's initiative are Borgess Medical Center, Bronson Methodist Hospital, the Center for Health Equity, Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services and the WMU School of Medicine.