Member Perspective: Take Time to Measure Performance and Celebrate Successes

We all know Michigan has had its share of woes lately, so I’m eager to share some good news: As a state, we’ve made real and substantial progress when it comes to getting children off to a healthy start in life. Those who work in nonprofits aimed at improving the lives of children have reason to celebrate the progress we’ve made so far.

Today, Kids Count in Michigan (a collaboration of the Michigan League for Human Services and Michigan’s Children) released our Right Start in Michigan–2009: Maternal and Infant Well-Being in County Groups report. We looked at the eight indicators of maternal and infant health from 1992-2007. Research has shown that these eight factors are key to a health birth. This report, developed annually, allows the state, all 83 counties, and the 69 communities in Michigan with population over 25,000 to assess their efforts to improve life prospects for their newborns statewide.

First the good news: Michigan has improved in six of eight areas over the trend period.

Smoking among pregnant women has dropped by a third, and the percentages of births to teens and repeat births to teens – teenage moms who have another child before turning 20 – have declined by a quarter. Mothers in urban counties have had a particularly sharp drop in smoking.

The report also reported worsening trends: The rate of low birth weight babies is rising and births to unmarried women are up, driven by a huge jump in the number of unmarried women in their 20s having children. A child’s risk of poverty rises substantially in a single-mother household.

To see a summary of statewide changes in rates, click here. Although we have made great progress, there is still work to be done. We can’t afford to let up on programs and efforts that brought improvements, but taking time to evaluate our progress has allowed us to see where we need to focus our future efforts.

How does your organization measure performance? How are you using the findings to direct your efforts?

Note: This post is authored by guest blogger Jane Zehnder-Merrell. Jane is Director of Kids Count in Michigan and Senior Planning/Research Associate at the Michigan League for Human Services. Since 1994, Jane has managed the Kids Count in Michigan project that produces an annual data book on child well-being and conducts an ongoing public information campaign around children’s issues.

Michigan League for Human Services has been a MNA member since 1997.
Michigan’s Children has been a MNA member since 1998.

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2 Responses

  1. Jane,

    Thanks so much for this post and reminding us all to stop, look back, and then re-evaluate what we see looking forward. I think writing to put your findings into context can be a great way of sharing this information with a different kind of audience. I’m glad I came across the “Right Start” report this way! It’s something we’d love to share at IssueLab as well.


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