2018 Report

From Birth to One

Infant Health in Greater Kansas City

Our region has an infant mortality problem.

From  2012-2016,  our  community  lost  662  babies  who  were  born and  did  not live  to  their  first  birthday (*includes Clay,Jackson, Platte counties in MO and Johnson & Wyandotte in KS).   Those  losses  of  life  ripple through  the  fabric  of  our community and very clearly show that the health of our community is suffering. While the issue mirrors the impact of poverty in Kansas City, Missouri and Wyandotte County most sharply, the entire region feels the impact of lives lost.



On average, every month in metro Kansas City eleven babies die

There is a public health crisis that is invisible in our region. Babies are born, take a breath and then die before their first birthday. Others leave the hospital and are growing happy and healthy only to die in a bed shared with an adult or rolled over on and suffocated by a loved one on a couch. Every month eleven more die.

While our region has reached the Centers for Disease Control's "Healthy People 2020 goal" of only 6 babies dying per 1,000 born, this is not true for African Americans and Latinos, and it is not true if mom is experiencing poverty. The health of our infants is the canary in the coal mine: it is signaling that the health of our community is suffering.

“No family should have to bury their baby when we have the tools to save lives.”

Sarah Martin.

Deputy Director, KCMO Health Department

6 kindergarten classes are empty

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are not 

evenly shared

We can clearly see that the improvements are not spread evenly throughout the region.

Wyandotte County continues to have a significantly higher rate of poor birth outcomes. The total number of births in Wyandotte County is lower, but the proportion of infants who are born preterm, and who die is significantly higher. We measure infant mortality as the rate of deaths per 1,000 live births.

Infant Deaths per 1,000


In Jackson County and Wyandotte County, every year we spend

$124 Million

on medical costs from preterm birth**

*Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

Kansas Department of Health and Environment

City of Kansas City, Missouri Health Department

**Analysis based on cost of preterm birth from March of  Dimes National Database

"The death of an infant is a tragedy no parent should have to endure.  If an unsafe sleep situation is named as a contributing factor, the tragedy is complicated by the fact that there is the idea of potential preventability.  The impact this has on the grief process is enormous, as parental feelings of guilt may be magnified.  We must do our best to educate families and provide them with the knowledge, strategies, and equipment necessary to avoid the loss of precious babies."

Lori Behrens
Executive Director, Infant Loss Resources

*Analysis of FIMR data Clay, Platte, and Jackson counties, Missouri

       Johnson & Wyandotte counties, Kansas, 2012-2016

Extreme Preterm Birth

Some babies are born far too early to survive.  Our job is to lower the number of extreme preterm births. We need all women to quit smoking while pregnant, and wait at least 18 months between delivery and becoming pregnant again.



Sleep Related Deaths

The majority of all sleep-related death is preventable. The safest place for a baby to sleep is in a crib.  All other surfaces especially in bed with mom or dad puts the baby at risk.  Our job is to ensure that every family practices safe sleep:  Alone on their Back in a Crib. And Don't smoke around the baby.  It is never worth the risk.


Birth Defects

Incredible teams at Children’s Mercy are working every day to detect birth defects and develop solutions to help babies survive.  Partners at the March of Dimes fund research at a national level. We know early prenatal care is our best strategy to detect birth defects. That's why we want every single mom to get the great prenatal care her child deserves.



Other Deaths

These include accidents, infections, and homicides in our community.  Healthcare interventions alone are not going to solve these factors.  The health of our communities, both physical and mental,  significantly impact these numbers.

Two counties with two different stories

Early prenatal care is the most important factor in reducing preterm birth and infant death. Wyandotte County has increased the percent of women getting early care from 60% in 2006 to 73% in 2015. Unfortunately, Jackson County has now dropped to 64% from 86%. That translates to 2,000 fewer moms in Jackson County getting care every year. When we share learnings across state lines we can share improvement together.

**Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

       Kansas Department of Health and Environment

Infant Deaths per 1,000 (2012-2016)*

Who is experiencing this tragedy?

Race plays a role in the health of infants more than any other factor. It does not matter how much money you make. Nationally, a college-educated African American is nearly two times more likely to have an infant loss than a White mom who did not graduate high school.  The overall rate of infant deaths for African American babies is more than double the rate of White infant deaths in Kansas City, and three times as high in Wyandotte County.















"We must continue to challenge ourselves to have conversations and implement solutions to eradicate racism in our community and country.  Our babies’ lives are literally depending on it." 

Melissa Robinson

President, Black Health Care Coalition

Kansas City, 


Wyandotte County, 


*Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

       Kansas Department of Health and Environment

What about Poverty?


Additionally poverty plays a key role in the health of women and their infants. Low birth weight increases risk for infant loss and often mirrors poverty in our community. With both Kansas and Missouri choosing to forgo Medicaid expansion the fallout from that decision is already harming the next generation.

“When a society supports every family, the future is brighter for all, and when communities come together, even the toughest problems can be solved."

Ellie Brent

Maternal and Child Health Director, March of Dimes Kansas and Missouri

With a complex problem like infant mortality we know change comes when we  address the overall health of

Community  Family  Mother   Father   Child



Mother & Child Health Coalition believes it is time for our community to adopt a COLLECTIVE IMPACT APPROACH to significantly reduce infant deaths by bringing together different organizations and perspectives from throughout our region. This isn’t about another committee.  This is about action. Laser-focused action, bold strategies, and real orchestration of all the stakeholders.

The community must be at the table to co-design solutions that will spread

Leverage the right evidence-based approaches that move our region forward

Build momentum by joining forces across sectors focused on our collective results

Share data and learning across state lines, because we will only succeed toegther

“The problem of infant mortality in Kansas City cannot be addressed by medical interventions alone.  This problem demands a community response. The highest priority for Kansas City should be to lower infant mortality.”  

Howard W. Kilbride,  Division Director, Neonatology

Neonatology Director, Fetal Health Center

Associate Chair, Department of Pediatrics

Children’s Mercy Kansas City

Professor of Pediatrics, UMKC School of Medicine

NICU Medical Director, University of Kansas Medical Center

“Women's health is fundamental to the health of our families, communities and humanity. We must prioritize our resources so that our values are reflected in our public policy.”


David Mundy

Director, Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Truman Medical Center


Spotlight of a few key partners leading the way for infant health

Kansas City Healthy Start Initiative uses experienced community health workers at Federally Qualified Health Centers to provide care coordination and case management to women before, during and after pregnancy to improve the health and lifestyles of families in the KC metro area.


need you, your

business, church

and neighborhood

involved, too!

Uzazi Village partners doulas with mothers to decrease the incidence of prematurity through programming, education and support that is population and culturally specific while using innovative techniques to empower women.

Every Baby to 1 engages the faith community to develop education efforts and initiatives that address infant mortality using the “3 S” approach of Safe Sleep, Safe Space, and Social Support to reduce the risk of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID).

Nurse Family Partnership 

works by  having specially trained nurses regularly visit young, first-time moms-to-be, starting early in the pregnancy, and continuing through the child’s second birthday. It is a model used by cities across the country and we know it works!

Wyandotte Fetal Infant Mortality Review Community Action Team is focusing on neighborhood level interventions that empower moms to teach each other about lowering stress, as well as spacing pregnancies on a timeline that mom sets.

KCMO Health Commission's Birth Outcomes Monitoring Committee

is addressing barriers to prenatal care by increasing pregnant women's access to Medicaid coverage and focusing on provision of culturally competent care, as well as  advocating for policy change .

PROMISE 1000 is a collaborative approach to making home visitation services the best they can be for every family. Teaching service agencies evidence-based tools to support families in the first three years of life, they hope to change the outcome for the greater KC region.

“Children are truly our future. Together, we are all working hard to improve the health of mothers and babies in our community. At this point in time, we are poised to take our collective efforts to the next level, and achieve a significant reduction in infant deaths in our communities.”  

Susan McLoughlin,

Executive Director, Mother & Child Health Coalition

Each Week in the Greater Kansas City Region*

455 babies

are born

2 of those die

(some weeks it is 3)

87 are born

too early

*includes Clay, Jackson and Platte counties in MO and Johnson and Wyandotte counties in KS

Mom's Health Matters

Out of 23,681 live births for 2016

3,186 women were not able to get adequate prenatal care


smoked during

her pregnancy


were struggling

with obesity


of all births

were to women

in poverty

% First Trimester Prenatal Care Use

Overall for the region

52% African American
54% Hispanic
77% White

The Centers for Disease Control's Healthy People 2020 goal is only 6 babies dying per 1,000 born

Data provided by:

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

Kansas Department of Health and Environment

City of Kansas City, Missouri Health Department

Missouri Information for Community Assessment

Kansas Information for Communities

Special Thanks to:

Dr. Jinwen Cai and Elizabeth Walsh - City of Kansas City, Missouri Health Department

Elizabeth Holzschuh - Johnson County Department of Health and Environment

Margo Quiriconi - Children's Mercy Kansas City

Cover Photo Provided by:

Ebony Peterson

Copy & Design: Ryan Mulligan

Edited: Mother & Child Health Coalition

Webpage: Shannon Williams


HCF's 2017 Annual Report is now available.


Our annual report celebrates the accomplishments of our grantees and community partners as we work toward igniting a culture of health in our region.

Also available is the Community Advisory Committee's annual review of HCF.


Download the 2017 Annual Report 

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