State, county rank poorly in birth report

ESCANABA – A report released Wednesday by the Michigan League for Public Policy suggests Michigan compares poorly with other states in areas like births to teen mothers and pre-term birth rates.

The report analyzes factors of maternal and infant well-being within the state’s 54 Great Start Collaboratives. Each collaborative brings together a variety of organizations to prepare children up to five years of age to enter the school system and for success later in life.

“We are focusing on making sustainable changes in our communities to benefit young children and their families,” said Tara Weaver, director of the Delta-Schoolcraft Great Start Collaborative. “It is our goal to give our children the best possible start in life. This is a community effort, an investment in the future.”

In the report, the Great Start Collabortives were organized into three tiers, each composed of 18 collaboratives. Both the Menominee and Delta-Schoolcraft Great Start Collabortives were in the middle tier, ranking 21st and 36th in the state respectively.

Also included in the report were state averages. In 2011, 115,395 babies were born in Michigan. Of those births, 44.8 percent were to uninsured, low-income women and 12,263 were born pre-term – prior to 37 weeks.

In the Menominee Great Start Collaborative 200 babies were born. Fifteen were born pre-term – 7.5 percent, tying it with the Midland Great Start Collaborative for the lowest rate in Michigan – and 26.2 percent were born to uninsured, low-income women.

In the Delta-Schoolcraft Great Start Collaborative, 446 babies were born between 2009 and 2011 with 49.8 percent being born to uninsured, low-income women. Forty-eight were born pre-term.

With more than 10 percent of babies being born pre-term in Delta County, Public Health of Delta & Menominee Counties is working to reduce the rate through programs like WIC and the new Maternal Infant Health Program, which promotes healthy pregnancies for mothers on Medicaid.

“We’re hoping that this new program is going to help reduce the number of pre-term births,” said Debbie Poquette, director of nursing at PHDM, adding that women who need to have their pregnancies verified for Medicaid eligibility can be verified by PHDM.

The PHDM programs work in tandem to promote healthy, full-term pregnancies.

“For all our programs we stress folic acid and the cessation of smoking,” said Carrie Polley, WIC coordinator for PHDM.

The Delta-Schoolcraft Great Start Collaborative also ranked 47th out of the 54 collaboratives in the state when it came to smoking during pregnancy – with 31.2 percent of mothers smoking while pregnant. On average in Michigan, 19 percent of mothers who gave birth between 2009 and 2011 smoked while pregnant.

“In our last strategic plan, smoking during pregnancy was part of the plan, but we broadened that in our new strategic plan to include kids that are born addicted to controlled substances,” said Weaver.

Weaver added while there is no tracking system to monitor the number of babies born with addictions to controlled substances, the initiative had received a number referrals suggesting controlled substances were an area of concern for the Delta-Schoolcraft collaborative.

The Delta-Schoolcraft Great Start Collaborative ranked 42nd in the state for the number of repeat teen pregnancies. Nineteen percent of teen pregnancies were to teens who were already parents.

“The rates were very stable in Delta and Menominee counties and without our Public Health programs, our rates would be higher,” said Poquette.

As a whole, Michigan ranked 31st in the nation for pre-term births in 2010, with 12 percent of all babies born being delivered before 37 weeks. Michigan also ranked 30th in births to teens (10 percent of births), 20th in births to teens who were already mothers (17 percent of births to teen mothers), 28th in births to unmarried women (42 percent of births), and 30th in low birth weight babies (8.4 percent of babies born).

In almost two-thirds of births to unmarried couples the parents were living together at the time the child was born. However, these couples are three times more likely to be separated by the time the child is five years old.

In addition, the rising age of first marriage has led to the median age for first birth occurring before the average age of first marriage. By 2010, 58 percent of first births for women in their 20s were to unmarried women.

Currently, 80 percent of American women between the ages of 20 and 24 are unmarried, as are half of women in their older 20s. Just over 42 percent of births in Michigan are to single mothers.