On Saturday November 1, over 150 families responded to an open casting call for the next Strong Baby for the Milwaukee Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families. Dozens more submitted photos and stories online. Several of the babies will be chosen by Serve Marketing to star in the next Strong Baby advertising campaign promoting messages that will raise awareness on how to ensure that babies born in Milwaukee are healthy, safe and strong.
Last year, 117 babies died in the city of Milwaukee. Infant mortality is the most sensitive gauge of overall community health and wellbeing. If babies don’t have a chance here, then it is safe to say that our community conditions are setting our families up to fail. The Milwaukee Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families, led by United Way of Greater Milwaukee, is charged with improving the community conditions that lead to poor birth outcomes. Before we can influence these conditions we must first gain the trust of our most vulnerable populations.
In Milwaukee, African American babies have a diminished survival rate. They are three times more likely to experience a poor birth outcome. This racial disparity in birth outcomes is not acceptable in this or any other community. That is why it was so important to launch the Strong Baby campaign with the City of Milwaukee Health Department and Serve Marketing. We must celebrate the babies that do survive and thrive, and allow them to serve as role models for Healthy Birth Outcomes. By raising awareness about what it takes to raise a strong baby we are engaging the community in a positive way. The only way we will turn this disparity around is if we celebrate the births while we are fighting to improve the environment.
The Strong Baby Casting Call was just the beginning. We are taking a multi-sector approach to changing this indicator of poor health. We will continue to spread the message about how to raise a strong baby through our Facebook page, our iwantastrongbaby.com and with the help of the Milwaukee Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families Collaborative members we will work to address all the factors that contribute to poor health. Our focus will continue to move upstream. We will make sure we educate the community about being healthy before, between and beyond pregnancy. We will work with fathers in order to engage them in the parenting process. We will connect with stakeholders in the faith community to spread messages about fostering strong communities, strong families and strong babies.
For every baby we lost last year, we were able to see there are many babies that did make it. More than 150 of those babies showed up to the casting call at the BMO Harris Bradley Center to show that even in an environment where the community conditions are poor, our families can be resilient.