The Promise and Challenge of Implementing a Community Health Worker Strategy to Reduce Infant Mortality

Research Brief | October 01, 2016

Detroit has a serious infant mortality problem. Infants die there at a rate that is comparable to those in some less developed countries, and the rate for African-American infants is even higher. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count data on infant mortality, Detroit consistently ranks as highest or second highest among the 50 largest cities in the nation. Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Memphis were the only cities that had infant mortality rates higher than 10 per 1,000 births each year between 2009 and 2011.

In 2008, the four major health systems in Detroit (Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Health System, St. John Providence Health System, and Oakwood Healthcare System, now Beaumont Health—Dearborn) came together with other community partners to form the Detroit Regional Infant Mortality Reduction Task Force. One of its major initiatives was the development of what became the Women-Inspired Neighborhood (WIN) Network. WIN Network used community health workers (CHWs) to connect women in select neighborhoods of Detroit to health and social services, with the goal of empowering them to have healthy pregnancies, raise healthy babies and improve their lives.

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