Here is a new ground-breaking study: "Right Start in Detroit 2009: Maternal and Infant Well-Being in the City of Detroit, 2000-2007". Data Driven Detroit worked with the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion to look at birth statistics by neighborhood - something that has never been done before in the city. The analysis shows that maternal and infant well-being varies vastly from neighborhood to neighborhood.
In Palmer Woods, only 10 percent of births are to teen mothers. In the Winterhalter subcommunity, nearly one in three babies is born to a teenager. The Vernor and Chadsey-Condon subcommunities have the highest shares of mothers without high school diplomas. And despite an overall decrease in the Detroit birth rate between 2000 and 2007, the Chadsey-Condon and Jeffries subcommunities have both registered an increase in the same period.
This study shows that place matters. Where you live can affect how you start out in life, and it can profoundly affect your ability to thrive for years to come.
Getting public policy off to a Right Start
The policy implications are clear. It would be smart to target thinly-stretched resources directly at the problems that need to be addressed. If five communities have 24 percent or more births to teens - Osborn (24 percent), St. Jean (25 percent), Conner (25 percent), Burbank (26 percent) and Winterhalter (27 percent) - then perhaps those communities should be getting the lion's share of prevention, education and maternal health care services. That's why good, accurate research is key to developing effective public policy that makes real change to the lives of those who live in Detroit.
However, let it be clear that one study is not enough to answer critical questions about mother-child outcomes in Detroit. It is known that in the Conner subcommunity, nearly half of the infants received inadequate prenatal care. What the study does not reveal is why. Is there a lack of health care institutions in the area? Do the mothers lack health insurance? Is there a cultural mistrust of doctors? Are there language or educational barriers? Are cigarettes and liquor more available in the community than fresh fruits and vegetables?
Data Driven Detroit's report has been well-received in the media. The hope is that this is not only a "Right Start" for the mothers and children in Detroit, but it marks a right start for the use of data to inform public policy as well.
Subcommunity Reports (Click Here). (For a Subcommunity reference map, please see Appendix A of the report.)
In the News:
City's rebirth at risk over lack of births, Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press, March 3, 2010