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Detroit

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Nearly 500 Detroit children have died in homicides since 2000 — an average of nearly three dozen a year. Most were gun-related, and most were among children 14-18. Many youngsters just got in the way of a bullet intended for an adult, or for no one in particular.

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It’s impossible to say how much of a health risk illiteracy poses for Detroit children. But those working with Detroit parents say poor reading skills make it harder for parents to raise healthy kids, support families or prepare children with skills needed to enter school ready to learn.

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Hospital systems, nonprofits and foundations are finding innovative ways to improve health and safety for kids and work around obstacles that have stymied progress in the past.

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Women who have a cervix that is shorter than 25 mm, have a 70 percent greater risk of delivering their babies at less than 33 weeks of gestation. But research conducted in Detroit has uncovered a promising treatment for women with short cervixes -- vaginal progesterone.

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Mayor Mike Duggan said he’s well aware of Detroit’s infant mortality problem and to tackle it he will draw upon his experience as president and CEO of the Detroit Medical Center, a position he held from 2004 until he resigned to enter Detroit’s mayoral race.

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Since 1986, Detroit's Infant Mortality program has had more than 1,600 babies born and only five infant deaths with no maternal deaths. The majority of participants are African-American women between 16 and 27 years old, and 98 percent are single mothers living at or below the poverty line.

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More babies are born prematurely in Detroit than in any major city in the United States. Experts blame a confluence of health risks for Detroit’s high infant mortality rate, including inadequate health care, information, support and know-how by young mothers.

Picture of Karen Bouffard

Detroit kids through age 18 died at a rate of 120 per 100,000 children in 2010, the most recent year for which complete data is available. Detroit was the only city whose death rate among children topped 100 per 100,000; Philadelphia, at 95.7, was a distant second.

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In Michigan, companies have begun to recover, businesses are hiring and the economy is humming again. But recovery has remained elusive for many families whose struggles have been exacerbated by severe cuts to social safety nets, education and social programs.

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It’s a Medicare reform idea that seems pretty straightforward, and for proponents on both sides of the political aisle, a fair-minded approach to solving the entitlement program’s funding woes -- make more financially well-heeled Medicare beneficiaries foot more of the bill for their care....

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