GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Tuesday kicks off Black Breastfeeding Awareness Week in Michigan, which is a time to raise awareness about the health disparities facing women of color.

Officials with Priority Health say that Black women are less likely to be supported when it comes to breastfeeding. That’s why this new initiative is hoping to change that and shine a light on the issue.

“Having these conversations and having these conversations often is of the upmost importance,” said Shannon Wilson, director of Medicaid outreach and quality for Priority Health.

According to a study by the Black Women’s Health Imperative, women of color are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women.

It’s a problem that Wilson is working to tackle head on.

“Every baby in this country deserves the opportunity to grow up in a healthy and supportive environment and I think that’s something that we can all agree on, and breastfeeding is one of the ways that we can do that,” said Wilson.

Wilson says in addition to this, more issues that disproportionately affect the community include higher rates in premature babies and lower birth weights.

“Both of those have negative impacts on their ability to live happy and successful lives and so how we address that is important and supporting things like breastfeeding is one of the ways we can do that,” said Wilson.

Wilson says the first way to help the Black community is to begin talking about this openly.

“It’s really important that we start to have this conversation because we know that just breastfeeding alone could improve our infant mortality rate in the African American community by as much as 50%,” said Wilson.

She says it will only lead toward a better future.

“Making sure that every mom has the resources necessary to do that is absolutely important,” said Wilson.

More information on Black Breastfeeding Awareness Week can be found online