Milwaukee, Wisc., has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the country. In fact, sections of Milwaukee have rates that rival some of the world's poorest nations.
That's the million-dollar question. Or should I say the $10 million question? That is the amount of money that Wisconsin, through the University of Wisconsin's School of Medicine and Health's Wisconsin Partnership Program, has allocated to spend over the next five years to find the root — and hopefully also a solution — to the problem.
The United Way of Greater Milwaukee, the Zilber Neighborhood Initiative, the Medical College of Wisconsin, the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Health Department will join the effort to understand why so many babies are dying in Milwaukee, particularly certain areas of Milwaukee.
Milwaukee's infant mortality rate — the number of children who died before their first birthday per 1,000 births — was 11 between 2005 and 2008. In the 53210 ZIP code, a notoriously poor section of Milwaukee, there were 19.5 deaths per 1,000 births, a rate worse than some of the world's poorest places. The U.S. national rate for the same time period was 6.7.
So why are Milwaukee's babies dying? Poverty may play a role. Almost 40 percent of families living in high-risk neighborhoods are living below the poverty line. But even financially stable women who have good prenatal care throughout their pregnancies are losing their babies. Race is a factor. The infant mortality rate for black women in Milwaukee from 2005-2008 was 15.7. But why? Is it stress? Home environment? Genetics?
The scary thing is, nobody seems to know, but hopefully, they are on their way to finding out.