Health Equity Division Provides Leadership with the Milwaukee Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families (LIHF)

Lifecourse Initiative for Health Families (LIHF)Did you know that black babies born in the city of Milwaukee die a rate that is three times higher than that of white babies? This is a sad, but true reality in our city. In some neighborhoods in Milwaukee, the infant mortality rate (death of a baby before it reaches his/her first birthday) is comparable to underdeveloped countries. We can and must do better at welcoming all babies into our society and providing them with opportunities to thrive.

The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health dedicated funds to address infant mortality disparities in Milwaukee, Racine, Beloit and Kenosha; each of these communities have appalling racial/ethnic disparities in birth outcomes. Through their Wisconsin Partnership Program (WPP) the Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families (LIHF) was developed to support planning grants in the four communities; each of the communities worked to identify the needs of African-American women and their families, and pursue opportunities to address those needs. The planning phase ran from fall 2010 to spring 2012.

Earnestine Willis, MD, MPH, MCW Health Equity Director, and Clarene Mitchell, (former) MCW Health Equity Program Manager, have been fully engaged in the Milwaukee LIHF Collaborative. Dr. Willis served as the Co-Chair and Clarene provided staffing capitol during the 18-month Planning Phase.

The life course perspective was developed by Dr. Michael Lu as a way to address racial/ethnic infant mortality disparities. This theory:

  • Suggests that a complex interplay of biological, behavioral, psychological, and social protective and risk factors contributes to health outcomes across the span of a person’s life.
  • Conceptualizes birth outcomes as the end product of not only the nine months of pregnancy, but the entire life course of the mother leading up to the pregnancy.

LIHF Collaborative PhotoOn Tuesday, April 24, 2012, the Milwaukee LIHF Collaborative unveiled its Community Action Plan (CAP) to a capacity filled crowd at the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, Inc. The CAP contains recommendations on what actions should be taken to eliminate racial disparities in birth outcomes.

The above photo shows some of the leadership members, both past and current (from left to right): Katherine Marks, Wisconsin Partnership Program's LIHF Oversight and Advisory Committee; Margaret Henningsen, Milwaukee LIHF Co-Convener (Planning Phase)/Women's Fund of Greater Milwaukee; James Causey, event Masters of Ceremonies/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Dr. Earnestine Willis, Milwaukee LIHF Collaborative Co-Chair/Medical College of Wisconsin; Dr. Kathleen Pritchard, Milwaukee LIHF Co-Convener (Planning Phase)/Planning Council; Shawn Green, Milwaukee LIHF Collaborative Co-Chair/Faith Partnership Network; Paula Penebaker, Milwaukee LIHF Collaborative Fiscal Agent (Implementation Phase)/YWCA of Greater Milwaukee.

To learn more about racial infant mortality disparities, please view video excerpts from When the Bough Breaks, a segment of the documentary Unnatural Causes.

To learn more about infant mortality in Milwaukee, please review the 2010 City of Milwaukee Fetal Infant Mortality Review (FIMR) Report. This report summarizes what is known about factors that contribute to Milwaukee’s high number of stillbirths and infant deaths in an effort to reduce infant mortality, and eliminate the racial and ethnic disparity in infant mortality. Through FIMR’s case review process, an analysis is done on all stillbirths and all infants who die before their first birthday. This is the fifth report since FIMR began in 1995. Each report seeks to inform and encourage new and improved programs and policies to prevent infant deaths and stillbirths in our community.

To review past activity and to stay updated with the Milwaukee Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families Collaborative, please visit the Wiki Space that is devoted to the Collaborative.

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Page Updated 02/26/2015