In 2007, Henry Ford Health System in Detroit began to look into ways to address the rate of infant deaths throughout the area, which for years has been one of the highest in the country.
Michigan's infant mortality rate has remained above the national average since at least the 1980s. A major driver is the disproportionately high number of deaths among black infants, who died at a rate that was nearly double the overall rate for the state, at 13.1 for every 1,000 live births in 2013, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health. Detroit accounts for a significant portion of that high rate.
“The infant mortality rate is largely a black infant death problem,” said Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom, chief wellness officer at Henry Ford Health.
So in 2008, Henry Ford began collaborating with three competing regional healthcare providers—Detroit Medical Center, St. John Providence Health and Oakwood Healthcare systems—to form the Detroit Regional Infant Mortality Reduction Task Force. The effort, now known as the Women-Inspired Neighborhood (WIN) Network, partners systems with community organizations and local health departments to offer a comprehensive approach—addressing clinical and social factors associated with infant mortality.
“We are taking what we call a 'social determinants of health' approach,” Wisdom said. “We look not only at the clinical (factors) for why these babies die, such as prematurity, but we look at other factors in the home and social factors during pregnancy.”