Close-Up Photo of Infant SleepingDetroit’s infant mortality rate of nearly 15 deaths per 1,000 births is among the highest in the nation.

In response, a new program, Women-Inspired Neighborhood Networks, or "WIN Network: Detroit" is reaching out to at-risk women in their own neighborhoods to try to provide better coordinated care before, during, and between pregnancies.

WIN Network: Detroit is working with Detroit’s major health systems (Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Health System, St. John Providence Health System, and Oakwood Healthcare System), as well as public health groups and academic and community partners, with support from several major foundations, to tighten a loose net of disconnected and disjointed medical and social services throughout the city. The hope is to build a comprehensive, accountable system of care that will engage the residents of three Detroit neighborhoods—Osborn, Brightmoor, and Chadsey-Condon—to improve conditions that lead to infant survival through the first year of life. Altarum Institute’s Palladian Partners is partnering with the project to provide communication tools and messaging to assist in connecting women with resources that lead to healthy birth outcomes.

WIN Network: Detroit is already linking clinical systems of care with community-based assets in an effort to address social determinants of health and close gaps in communication and services for women and children. Trained community health workers called Community and Neighborhood Navigators work with program participants to secure services and resources based on individual needs and host monthly group sessions throughout the community. Pregnant women are supported with home visits and receive guidance on prenatal care, personal wellness, parenthood, and infant and family health. Women who are not pregnant receive information on maintaining a healthy lifestyle before and between pregnancies, family planning, and other topics. In addition, the Community and Neighborhood Navigators connect women to resources addressing specific needs in education, employment, housing, food access, and other social factors that influence health.

Aside from providing community-focused health material, WIN Network: Detroit will provide educational sessions to more than 500 physicians, nurses, social workers, and other health care professionals in Detroit’s major health systems. These continuing education approved sessions focus on health care equity, awareness of health disparities, and information on the WIN Network’s material and community resources. The training builds new relationships between public and private health care, offers a sustainable platform, and strengthens regional capacity to improve infant survival.

With targeted funding from W.K. Kellogg Foundation, WIN Network: Detroit is working to establish technologically relevant products to engage the broader community to promote pre- and interconception health as well as prenatal care. To assist the community in promoting good health before and during pregnancy, new communication tools such as social media tools, special text messaging, and community murals will be developed and implemented. The social marketing strategy is being designed to provide an innovative and evidence-based approach to initiate and sustain community engagement, creating greater opportunities for health education, goal setting, and connection to safety net services. Emphasizing hope, the social marketing strategy empowers women to access available local resources, supports overarching program goals to reduce infant mortality, and extends benefits to a broader audience.

“With the disparity for African-American infants being nearly three times the infant mortality rate of white infants in Detroit, we knew our efforts needed to speak to young African-American women in a way that could restore hope and embolden their ‘take on anything’ spirit,” said Kimberlydawn Wisdom, MD, MS, program director and chair of the Detroit Regional Infant Mortality Reduction Task Force. “The partnership with Palladian is helping us use what we’ve learned from the women in these three neighborhoods, namely that messages and testimonials promoting resilience and resourcefulness will be empowering for them and their peers as they take care of themselves and their families…. Palladian is helping us develop messaging that really speaks to our target population and will have the lasting impact we’re seeking.” Dr. Wisdom also is senior vice president of community health and equity and chief wellness officer at Detroit’s Henry Ford Health System.

By developing new tools and methods to reach at-risk moms who face numerous barriers to accessing health care, Palladian is helping to create the messaging that will make this effort successful. The communication tools will support the recruitment of at-risk moms, inform and empower women, and connect women with available resources. Specifically, Palladian is providing strategic communications support, message development, and outreach and dissemination support.

The project received a $300,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Local Funding Partnerships. Local funding partners for the $2.6 million project include the Kresge Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Detroit Medical Center, the Henry Ford Health System, Oakwood Healthcare System, St. John Providence Health System, the University of Michigan School of Public Health, and the PNC Foundation.

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About Palladian Partners

Palladian is a wholly owned for-profit subsidiary of Altarum Institute and specializes in science, medical, and public health communications services for government agencies and the private sector. Services include strategic communications planning, writing and editing, publication development and graphic design, Web content strategy, website design and development, digital media production, public outreach and media relations, research and evaluation, and conference management.