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State of Michigan expands WKKF-supported program aimed at improving healthy birth outcomes

A program supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to improve healthy birth outcomes for high-risk mothers in Kent County is being expanded by the State of Michigan.

Gov. Rick Snyder recently announced a state partnership with Strong Beginnings to grow the program’s efforts to improve birth and health outcomes for women and children of color in Kent County, using pay-for-success contracts and social impact bonds. This is the state’s first social impact bond to address community challenges. The Strong Beginnings program, which serves women living at or below 200 percent the poverty line, has been instrumental in helping to lower the infant mortality rate in the Grand Rapids area.

African-American infants born in Grand Rapids are 2.2 times more likely to die than white infants, according to 2015 data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. For Latina women in Kent County, records show there were 6.1 infant deaths for every 1,000 births compared to 4.5 for white women from 2012-2014.

The Kellogg Foundation has supported Strong Beginnings, managed by Spectrum Health, since 2011. The federally-funded Healthy Start program provides outreach, case management, education and mental health services for pregnant women and their children.

The state’s pilot partnership will expand the program’s reach to serve an estimated 1,700 families in Kent County and could be introduced to other counties. As part of the pay-for-success model, the state will collaborate with Michigan Partners for Success to team up with service providers and investors from the philanthropic and private communities to fund new preventative approaches that address community problems. The state pays only for those with successful outcomes.

By investing in Strong Beginnings, the state is showcasing the value of public-private partnerships to address systemic problems in our communities where it matters most.

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