Report: Giving babies the Right Start

Contact: Jane Zehnder-Merrell ( and Suban Nur Cooley ( at the Michigan League for Public Policy, (517) 487-5436

Right Start report highlights maternal/infant well-being in Michigan’s cities

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan’s cities have the most work to do in order to give infants a “Right Start” in life, a new report has shown, with maternal and infant well-being in 15 Michigan cities examined having worse outcomes on almost every measure compared with their out-county areas.

“For an infant born into disadvantaged communities, the inequities worsen as they grow – fewer state-supported early prevention and intervention programs are available,” says Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Kids Count in Michigan project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Using eight key measures to identify existing risks to infant and maternal well-being in these 15 Michigan cities, The Right Start in Michigan’s Legacy Cities: Inequity Begins at Birth report has found that roughly one quarter of all newborns in the state were born to mothers living in these 15 cities across the southern half of the state.

The report also found that infants in Michigan’s cities were more than twice as likely to be born to women without a high school diploma or GED, had roughly double the likelihood of being born to a teenager and nearly double the risk of being born to a single parent compared to out-county areas.

In four of the 15 Michigan cities, the majority of infants were born to women of color, and almost all the cities experienced an increase in minority births between 2006 and 2012. Detroit on its own represents 40 percent of all births in the cities measured.

As Michigan works to improve education outcomes and strengthen the state of the economy for future generations, the report suggests addressing the challenge of making sure more infants have the right start to early childhood in these larger cities.

“In order to see positive change, we need to fully implement the strategies outlined in the state’s Infant Mortality Reduction Plan which promotes safe sleep practices for infants, expands home-visits to high-risk women and reduces unintended pregnancies,” adds Zehnder-Merrell. “We also need to work across state departments to address social and economic determinants of health, increase opportunities and support systems for low-income women to complete education or training and be there at the very beginning with early interventions.”


The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a nonpartisan research and advocacy organization dedicated to economic opportunity for all.