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Milwaukee receives $5 million grant to focus on maternal-infant health

A coalition of Milwaukee organizations has been awarded a $5 million, five-year grant to implement a Milwaukee County Healthy Start Program that will support maternal-child health for African American women. 

The coalition includes the City of Milwaukee Health Department, Children’s Wisconsin Community Services, Black Child Development Institute-Milwaukee, Birth in Color Initiative, Easter Seals and other community stakeholders. 

The program will support pregnant African American women, fathers and their infants ages 0-18 months who are at the highest risk for poor maternal-child birth outcomes. The grant will allow for: 

  • The hiring of four new maternal community health navigators

  • The hiring of one new mental health consultant 

  • Access to child birth education classes

  • Access to a midwife for prenatal care, labor and delivery, and lactation support 

  • Improved primary care 

  • Fatherhood programming 

  • And other resources. 

"The Milwaukee Health Department is fully committed to supporting the implementation and execution of this Healthy Start project, which will decrease black infant mortality in Milwaukee County,” said Jeanette Kowalik, Milwaukee health commissioner. “Furthermore, Healthy Start will strengthen the connection between the City and County; this is essential to the health of black moms and babies for years to come."  

According to the Milwaukee Health Department’s 2017 FIMR Report, black infants in Milwaukee are three times more likely to die before their first birthday than white infants in Milwaukee, one of the largest health disparities in the country. 

The city of Milwaukee has not received federal funds to address infant mortality for the past five years. The coalition’s latest grant application received a perfect score and Children’s Wisconsin will be the fiscal agent for the grant. 

“At Children’s, we are as committed to helping kids start their lives healthy as we are to treating them when they are sick,” said Wanda Montgomery, director of community partnerships at Children’s Wisconsin. “That means helping all families in our community get the care they need, and this grant will help us work toward eliminating perinatal health disparities for African American women and children in Milwaukee County.”

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, in Milwaukee County, 7.9 percent of African American women received either no prenatal care or no third trimester care. The program will serve African American families, including 300 women prenatally, 300 infants and 100 fathers/partners annually. Ultimately, the program will work toward a reduction in infant mortality, improved birth outcomes, and improved maternal, child and family health.

For more information on the City of Milwaukee Health Department, visit and for more information on Healthy Start, visit