Archived Story

Cass Great Start numbers improving

Published 10:39pm Wednesday, May 8, 2013



LANSING— Michigan has much work to do to give infants the “Right Start” in life, a new report concludes, with little progress made in improving maternal and infant health from 2005 to 2011.


The report, released Wednesday by the Michigan League for Public Policy’s Kids Count in Michigan project in time for Mother’s Day, ranks the state’s 54 Great Start Collaboratives, or GSCs, on eight maternal and infant health measures. Livingston GSC is No. 1, or best, while Genesee and Wayne GSCs tied for last. Cass County ranks 49th.


Statewide, the largest increase in risk was in more births to unmarried women, rising from 36 percent of all births to 42 percent, an 18 percent jump. Cass County’s 25 percent increase in unwed moms was its only negative number.


“High unemployment, particularly among men, has been cited as a major reason to delay or reject marriage,’’ said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Kids Count in Michigan Project director. “Unfortunately, children born to single mothers are much more likely to face economic hardships and insecurity. Policies that grow opportunities for low-income workers will help.’’


The most positive change was a 9 percent improvement in repeat teen births, to teen moms who already had a child, showing public policy can make a difference. Michigan’s teen birth rate has been halved since 1990 as the result of a sustained public health and education campaign. Cass County showed no repeat teen births.


“With Mother’s Day approaching, it’s important to note that when we have the will, we can find the way to improve a child’s chance for success in life. This information will be given to local and state policymakers to highlight successes as well as areas where improvements are needed to help guide resources,’’ said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the League.


Of the eight indicators, five could be tracked over time, generally from 2005 to 2011. Staying about the same were teen births (9.4 percent of all births), preterm births (10.6 percent of all births) and low-birthweight babies weighing less than 5.5 pounds (8.4 percent of all births).


Of Cass County’s 502 births, 61.7 percent were to uninsured low-income women. Forty-nine were born too soon.


Cass County’s teen birth rate improved by 7 percent, low-birthweight babies improved 26 percent and pre-term births improved by 20 percent.


The report calls on policymakers to:


• Accept federal funds to expand eligibility of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which will increase access to health services for the most economically disadvantaged women in Michigan, who are at higher risk on several Right Start factors.
• Decrease the pay equity gap in Michigan to help female-headed households. The increase in births to single women makes the issue more imperative to the well-being of children.
• Increase job training opportunities for high school graduates to build skills necessary to earn family-sustaining wages.


The report can be found online at





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