Detroit’s crime and poverty rates are dauntingly high, but the high infant mortality rates threaten its future, which is why a new initiative called “Make Your Date” began last month in attempt to prevent further damage.  

Detroit’s health care systems have united in an effort to reduce pre-term births, which account for 50 percent of the city’s infant mortality rate. In Detroit, 18 percent of babies are born prematurely, which stands six percent higher than the state’s average.

“Carrying her baby to full term is the most important thing a mother can do for the development of her child,” Detroit’s Mayor Mike Duggan, who ran the Detroit Medical Center before taking office, told one of the campaign’s partner’s, Wayne State University. “The Make Your Date program is designed to make sure every baby born in Detroit is given a chance at a healthy start in life.”

Currently, 14 babies die for every 1,000 births there are in Detroit, which is twice the national average. The new campaign plans to decrease that number by inviting expectant mothers to sign up to the program where they’ll receive free prenatal care and guidance throughout their pregnancy, regardless if they’re already receiving care.

The program will connect mothers-to-be to prenatal care providers, preterm birth prevention education classes, regular ultrasounds, and group prenatal care. Regular ultrasounds will be able to identify if there’s a need for progesterone, and if there is, the treatment will reduce the risk of preterm birth by up to 45 percent. St. John Providence and the Detroit Medical Center have already found a 40-percent reduction in preterm birth among African-American women who join the prenatal care groups.

“This program is bringing together civic leaders with a shared purpose through cross-sector collaboration and maximization of our combined resources to get our Detroit moms-to-be the care they need for their greatest chance at a healthy, full-term birth,” Dr. Sonia Hassan, the associate dean for Maternal, Perinatal and Child Health for Wayne State University School of Medicine, told the university.

In the United States, there are 615 infant deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which ranks them at 169 in the worldwide infant mortality rate. Detroit’s one in three pregnancy death rate ranks the city higher than in China, Mexico and Romania, according to data collected by the CIA. Pregnancy-related deaths helped put Michigan’s maternal mortality rate in the bottom fifth among American states.

“These are the children of Detroit,” Hassan said. “They are the future of it.”

While leaders in health care implement programs to improve the medical safety and future of Detroit, funding cuts to vital services are starving money from people who need it most. The Department of Human Services saw $287.6 million in cuts to the money it spent on Michigan’s public assistance for the poor. With the state’s unemployment rate at 7.4 percent, which is ranked eighth highest in the county, poverty rates continue to climb and threaten the welfare of women and children alike.

“We are, of course, disappointed, but remain dedicated to our priorities — among them the improvement of the health status of our children and their moms,” Conrad Mallet, chief administrative officer of the Detroit Medical Center said in a statement Tuesday.