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Our Faith Community Explores the Impact of Racism on Infant Mortality in Kalamazoo

100 clergy, congregants and community members accepted the call to action from the Anti-Racism Task Force to explore the link between racism and the 4-fold disparity between black and white infant deaths in Kalamazoo. Most alarming, we saw that the 4-fold impact of race holds true regardless of the income and education level of the mother; that is, a black college educated professional woman is 4 times more like to lose her infant before its 1st birthday than her white co-worker, even if her white co-worker has lower income and education. The impact of the chronic stresses of racism and poverty are carried in the body and impact pregnancy and infant survival.

Unity of Kalamazoo and First Presbyterian Church hosted the two offerings of the 3-hour workshop. Partners from Cradle Kalamazoo and WMed (WMU Medical School) provided and interpreted the significance of local research findings that show the rates and risk factors for infant deaths and how dramatically these differ for black babies and poor babies.

These partners, along with YWCA Health Equity and the County’s Healthy Babies Healthy Start, provided information about Safe Sleep and other services, resources and community interventions that can reduce risk factors and support families.  Participants experienced the relationship building and racial healing of guided one-on-ones with others they hadn’t known well before:

Families from our community who have experienced this tragic loss provided testimonials that demonstrated the painful realities and consequences of implicit bias that lives in our community and in our biology and the lifetime consequence in just a moment of an unsafe sleep situation regardless of race or income.

This video tells some of those stories…

Although we may have thought we understood this problem, we learned much more about the social factors that contribute to the persistent racial disparities in our city, and we felt compelled and hopeful that we can support the mission of Cradle Kalamazoo by transforming ourselves and, through this, the institutions that define our community.

To learn more about Cradle Kalamazoo visit:

These workshops will be followed on by two further trainings for participants; one focusing on Implicit Bias training and the next on Health Equity. Participants will be an informed cadre of representatives from our faith community and wider community who can support the mission of Cradle and the systems changes needed to reduce health disparities.

– Rochelle Habeck, ISAAC representative to Cradle Kalamazoo