The Population Health Alliance of Calhoun County focuses on priority areas that are outlined through the Community Health Needs Assessment. One of those areas of focus is maternal and infant health.

To make this a reality, the Regional Health Alliance (now PHA) was founded in 1999 to help address maternal and infant health. Since then, the Maternal and Infant Health Commission (MIH) has been revamped several times to stay updated, informed, and relevant when it comes to addressing infant mortality. MIH has made lasting impacts on the community over the last two decades. However, addressing local natal needs requires ongoing work, which MIH needs support and resources to put into place. Because of that, PHA still considers maternal and infant health to be a priority area.

In an effort to ensure its objectives are updated and relevant, MIH measures its progress by attaining goals set by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services 2020-2023 Mother Infant Health and Equity Improvement Plan (MIHEIP).

So, how is Calhoun County striving to keep our little ones and their caretakers safe? We’ll tell you.

Healthy From Day One

The mission of the Maternal and Infant Health Commission is to improve birth outcomes in Calhoun County. One sign of success is achieving a low infant mortality rate, which measures deaths of babies before their first birthday. Our vision is that every single infant born in our community will be healthy and ready to thrive. The commission is working to meet this goal by providing maternal education and support. Their driving force is, “Zero preventable deaths. Zero health disparities.”

Infant and maternal health can mean a lot of different things. Because of that, the commission has defined their focus to include:

  • Health equity
  • Healthy women, girls, and mothers
  • Optimal birth spacing and intended pregnancies
  • Full term, healthy weight babies
  • Infants safely sleeping
  • Mental, emotional, and behavioral well-being

Health Through the Pandemic

From 2011-2015, the strongest risk factors for infant mortality in Calhoun County were prematurity, very low birth weight, and maternal education level (less than a high school degree). The mortality rate for Black infants was 2.8 times higher than for white infants in Calhoun County. While these numbers have decreased and continue to, the pandemic hasn’t made it any easier.

COVID-19 has posed challenges to every facet of healthcare, including maternal and infant health. In fact, the United States is one of the only countries where maternal mortality rate is rising. Between increased risks for posttraumatic stress, anxiety/depression, and loneliness, the health of new mothers is more important than ever, especially since their wellbeing directly impacts their infant’s health.

Calhoun County has stepped up to the plate to help the mothers in our community. Milk Like Mine, a breastfeeding coalition and community birthing and breastfeeding services center, is one example of assistance families in our community can benefit from. This group is focused on helping mothers and families of color to breastfeed successfully.

Milk Like Mine, in partnership with Calhoun County Public Health Department, the Breastfeeding Coalition of Calhoun County, and PHA, will be hosting their first annual Breastfeeding in the Park event on August 6th from 10 am-12 pm at McCamly Park. One part of maternal and infant health is normalizing breastfeeding, and this event can help make that happen.

Prioritizing Infants & Mothers

The commission has made great strides already, but they’re not stopping yet. Upcoming priorities related to maternal and infant health include maternal mental health, cultural competency, and medical translation services.

Mental health has always been important, but the pandemic has really underscored its importance. Our healthcare system has seen the impacts that a pregnant individual’s mental health can have on their child and their own post-birth. It’s necessary that we focus on this pillar of their wellbeing.

Cultural competency is all about ensuring community medical and social service professionals understand Calhoun County’s population and provide appropriate services. These can include medical translation and interpretation, along with many other services. Cultural competency also emphasizes educating our community about disparities between different segments of the population. Since the infant mortality rate has been significantly different for infants of color compared to white infants, it’s on us to create systems of equality and make direct changes.

The health and wellness of mothers and their babies are a priority focus for us in Calhoun County. We are prepared to continue to push for the best and support them any way we can. Click here to learn more about how you can get involved with the Maternal and Infant Health Commission