GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has developed a new plan that hopes to bring birthing deaths and birth disparities down to zero.

The plan, titled Advancing Healthy Births, will focus on four key goals: health across the reproductive span, full-term and healthy baby weights, safe sleeping for infants and overall mental, behavioral health and well-being. The plan will be implemented through 2028.

The goals were established after a dozen town halls were held by MDHHS earlier this year to identify the biggest concerns Michiganders face in the birthing space. The plan outlines the overall goals the state hopes to accomplish over the next four years:

  • Reduce infant mortality rate to six deaths per 1,000 births.
  • Reduce eclampsia rate to 5.6 cases per 10,000 hospital deliveries.
  • Reduce teen birth rate to nine births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19.
  • Increase the number of Michigan doulas trained and on the MDHHS Doula Registry to 500.
  • Increase the number of hospitals fully implementing the Severe Hypertension in Pregnancy Safety Bundle (MI AIM) to 90%.

Dawn Shanafelt, the director of maternal and infant health at MDHHS, said that while the overall infant mortality rate has dropped in Michigan, the maternal mortality rate has begun to increase. That rate is also two to three times higher among Black mothers than their white counterparts.

“A long-standing challenge is that families are reporting that they’re experiencing bias and particularly families in the birthing space,” Shanafelt said. “That’s an area that we’re definitely focusing on and by focusing on birth equity and moving forward regarding systemic racism, systemic inequity.”

Every four to five years, the state introduces a new plan to help with birthing problems residents face. By identifying them early on with the help of the town halls, it has had prior success that it hopes to continue.

“Listening to families and the acting upon what we’ve heard. So we’ll continue on that trajectory because it is improving outcomes,” Shanafelt said. “We’ve definitely found something that works. And it’s not a novel idea, right — listening to people and responding to their needs.”

MDHHS’s website has resources that those who are expecting or have given birth can take advantage of and get connected to the right space. You can also dial 211 for additional help in finding those resources.

You can find a copy of the full plan by clicking here.