Detroit Healthy Start

Contact Information

Contact Person: Carolynn Rowland
Contact Info:


Detroit Healthy Start was created to reduce perinatal health disparities and has thus, become involved in local efforts to address racial disparities in infant mortality. The organization began in 2005 with the Detroit/Wayne County Infant Vitality Network (IVAN) and works with the Detroit community, especially with men and women of childbearing age, health care providers, and policy makers.

Detroit Healthy Start has been a part of four local collaborative efforts: IVAN, Great Start, Place Matters, and Regional Infant Mortality Task Force. These programs each address a different aspect of prenatal care. The goal of IVAN is to raise awareness and increase women's access to comprehensive, quality care, including pre/interconception care. Great Start also raises awareness and builds community capacity to address perinatal disparities. Place Matters focuses attention on social determinants of health. Lastly, the Regional Infant Mortality Task Force improves access to services and coordinates care.

Activities & Objectives

IVAN & Great Start have developed educational presentations on infant mortality and racial disparities, which included provider tool kits and resource guides. This information address social/economic/political factors contributing to racial disparities.

The "White Paper" on Place Matters acted as a community call to action to address social determinants of health.

The "Sew Up the Safety Net" Initiative addresses the gap in provider education about racism and disparities.

To increase understanding of the roots of inequity, Healthy Start hosted a formal training on racism for staff, clients, and Consortium members. Planned follow up includes training on facilitating difficult discussions using "Bridges Out of Poverty" in a learning circle format.

Best Practices

In partnership with Wayne County Great Start, Detroit Healthy Start developed 'A Healthy Baby Begins With You' speaker's bureau, which included a community education power point, training for presenters, and a manual. The goal has been to raise awareness about high rates of infant mortality, racial disparities, roots of disparities, and everyone's role in addressing the problems.

This effort has been sustainable. Pre/post tests and evaluations indicate we have been successful in raising awareness as well as injecting concepts such as disparities, racism, unequal treatment, and social determinants into the conversation.

Lessons, Challenges, & Recommendations

The primary challenge is illuminating the effect of racism on society, not just its consequences for people of color. As racism is such a touchy subject, many do not want to discuss privilege and power and the resulting unequal resource distribution. To change these attitudes, discussions of equity need to include racism and classism and highlight the way both have been used to protect the status quo. While individual communities and groups have their 'own' work to do, these issues need to be raised in multiracial/ethnic/class groups.