For every 1,000 babies born in Michigan, almost seven will die before reaching their first birthday. In 2016, 730 infants under the age of one year died, resulting in an infant mortality rate of 6.4 per 1,000 live births, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The causes of death vary but have been narrowed down to a few categories. It was reported that 31 percent of newborn infants died due to conditions related to prematurity, 21 percent died due to birth defects and about 11 percent of premature infant deaths were due to accidents – accidents that could have been prevented with proper knowledge and guidance.

That’s where SisterFriends Detroit comes in. SisterFriends Detroit is an innovative volunteer program whose aim is to encourage and support healthier moms and babies. The program services pregnant moms and their families until their baby’s first birthday. The initiative was put in place by Mayor Mike Duggan as a response to the high infant mortality, low birth weight and premature birth rates in the city of Detroit.

A jarring claim on the SisterFriends website reads, “Black babies in Detroit die at twice the rate of other babies in Michigan. Moms in Detroit face barriers to accessing quality prenatal care, social isolation, and stress that can put their babies at a higher risk of being born too small or too early.”

SisterFriends Detroit is taking a communal approach to helping Detroit baby’s live longer and healthier lives by pairing pregnant or new mothers, with a mentor – a SisterFriend – to help new mothers navigate the journey of motherhood.