We let them know they have resources and help right here

Monique Austell and Katrina Stacy

The disparity between black and white infant mortality in Kalamazoo County is one of the highest in Michigan. Babies of color are four times more likely to die before their first birthday. Monique Austell and Katrina Stacy are focused on the human lives behind those statistics. “These are our community’s babies. They can be anybody’s babies.”

Monique and Katrina are Bronson community health workers. These new positions are funded by the Bronson Health Foundation and were created to help combat the high infant mortality rate. “We looked at what steps other communities are taking that are successful,” says Monique. “We found having help for moms-to-be from the start is really important.”

“We try to get women seen earlier, schedule follow-up prenatal care, social work, and provide them education and resources for after the baby is born,” explains Katrina. “We teach them about everything from safe sleep to how to properly install a car seat.”

Building relationships and being open to conversations is an important part of what Monique and Katrina do. “We let them know they have resources and help right here,” says Monique.

Hiring community health workers is one of the ways that the Cradle Kalamazoo collaborative is working proactively to reduce the infant mortality disparity. Bronson is the operational partner of Cradle Kalamazoo and one of 30 agencies working together to address this important health issue in our community.

“We want to be able to help these women, to advocate for them and to show them it can be done,” says Katrina. And, Monique adds, “We want to provide reassurance that we as a community are about helping them be the best parents they can be.”