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Providing education to keep babies safe in Kalamazoo

Closeup portrait of beautiful african woman holding on hands her little daughter on white background. Family, love, lifestyle, motherhood and tender moments concepts. Mother’s day concept or background

Did you know that in the United States, Black babies are 2.4 times more likely to die before their first birthday than White babies?

“That is unacceptable,” said Cheryl Dickson, MD, M.P.H., Associate Dean of Health Equity and Community Affairs, Western Michigan University, and Chair of Cradle Kalamazoo’s Safe Sleep Strategy Committee. “As well as it is unacceptable for there to be any infant mortality rate.”

As a result, Cradle Kalamazoo structured a program centered on two 10-year goals set in 2014: 1) to eliminate the disparity in infant mortality between Black and White babies born in Kalamazoo; the ratio at the time was 4:1, and 2) report an overall infant mortality rate in Kalamazoo County of less than 3 per 1,000 live births from 6.6 per 1,000 live births.

Through a collective impact model, Cradle Kalamazoo implements evidence-based holistic interventions to reduce infant death and promote respect for families, women, and their children. They are doing this by raising awareness about reproductive health, safe sleep behaviors, car seat safety and more. Through a variety of approaches and campaigns, as well as advocating and creating systematic changes that address the conditions and inequities that contribute to infant mortality, Cradle Kalamazoo is determined to create long-term, sustainable change.

In 2021, with support of a nearly $30,000 grant from The Children’s Foundation, Cradle Kalamazoo began implementing Educational Awareness strategy via a new train-the-trainer approach. To accomplish this, Cradle Kalamazoo has partnered with trusted community organizations already servicing women and children to help promote safe sleep awareness.

“We are providing organizations with the knowledge and skills so they may speak the language of safe sleep and car seat safety,” said Dickson. “By working with trusted leaders in the community, such as hospital systems, faith-based organizations, social service agencies, and daycare providers, we broaden our impact, helping to address disparities and improve overall infant mortality rates in Kalamazoo County.”

Throughout the year, each community partner will receive six safe sleep train-the-trainer sessions; more than 120 participants will learn how to educate adult learnings in an engaging and interactive way. Additionally, eight individuals from Cradle Kalamazoo partnering organizations will become nationally certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPST) who will educate parents and caregivers through hands-on assistance with the proper use of child restraint systems and seatbelts. Together, these train-the-trainer approaches have the potential to impact thousands of families.

“We are a few years into Cradle Kalamazoo programming and seeing progress,” said Dickson. “The ratio between the Black and White infant mortality rate is now 3:1, which is motivating. Cradle Kalamazoo is constantly evolving programming to help us reach our 10-year goal. It takes time, continuous work and support from organizations like The Children’s Foundation who help us to achieve our goals to create systemic change and health equity around infant mortality.”

Help us improve the health and wellness of more children and families.

You can help us reach more children and families by making a gift to The Children’s Foundation. Click here to make your gift.

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