Thursday, November 20, 2014

Starting a conversation about keeping babies alive

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media
November 20, 2014

Grace Lubwama (Photos by Susan Andress)

Why is the infant mortality rate for black babies higher than those of white babies in Kalamazoo? Grace Lubwama, the new chief executive officer at Kalamazoo's YWCA will be working on bringing those numbers down.

Grace Lubwama, the new chief executive officer at Kalamazoo’s YWCA, was eager to see the United States when she arrived in 1997 as a young student from Uganda. This was the land of milk and honey, after all.

"When I first landed here, I thought I would be walking on gold, with lights everywhere," Lubwama laughs. 

Along with the stunning New York City skyline, Lubwama also saw such poverty in areas of New York City, her first stop, that poverty in Uganda at times paled in comparison. Infant mortality rates, she would later learn, were even higher in areas of the United States than in her homeland. She saw people living on the streets and going hungry. 

Although Lubwama bachelor’s degree was in art and design, the young student realized her calling was elsewhere. Lubwama knew she could make a difference in the social and public health issues she saw in such profusion around her. 

When coming to the United States, Lubwama had intended to return to Uganda upon completing her education. She received her master’s degree in public health at Boston University and her doctoral degree in policy, planning and development at the University of Southern California. Instead of returning to her homeland, however, she rolled up her sleeves to work on changing the world in which she now lived.

By then married and with two small sons, Lubwama learned about the infant mortality rates in Los Angeles, California, where, prior to coming to Kalamazoo’s YWCA in February 2014, she was the executive director of Antelope Valley Partners for Health, a public health planning and intervention organization, and national director of World Vision US, a Christian humanitarian organization working with children, families and communities, to take on the root causes of poverty and injustice. 

"When I moved to L.A., I wanted to do something to improve the wellness of community," Lubwama says. "I learned that the infant mortality rate in L.A. was 32.7 percent. That’s higher than in Uganda, and I was struck by that."

Lubwama started an important conversation. "I was young and naïve, but I had lots of enthusiasm. I talked to everyone I could talk to at hospitals and all kinds of organizations. We created a community collaborative, assessed the needs of the community, mapped resources, and came up with a strategy."

It took time, but it worked. After about 10 years, 32.7 percent dropped to 9 percent infant mortality rate. 

The YWCA in Kalamazoo noticed. Lubwama was hired to ...


No comments:

Post a Comment