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Helping Hoosier Infants

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - The most recent CDC rankings place Indiana as the sixth highest state for infant mortality in the country.

This is a problem more prevalent in rural communities throughout the state, where resources and funding aren't as available. 

The Indiana Rural Health Association is launching a project aiming to help women within a rural six-county region directly within the Wabash Valley. 

A federal grant is kick-starting what will be a three-year long pilot program structured to fill the need for maternity care throughout the Valley - care that will ultimately save lives. 

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Each year, hundreds of Hoosier babies aren't living to see their first birthday.

"Our infant mortality rate has been running between 7 and 7.2 deaths per thousand births here in the state," said Don Kelso, Executive Director of IRHA. 

And these deaths are occurring more frequently in rural communities, where resources aren't as available, or just aren't being utilized.

"60% of our infant mortality rate can be attributed to poor or no prenatal care," said Kelso. 
    IRHA is hoping to change these statistics through their new maternity care initiative, which will focus on improving resources and education for women in rural areas through a medical home model, adopted from successful existing models.

"It's not like a group home," said Cindy Large, Project Director of IRHA. "But it's more of bringing mothers together in a group setting, it's providing consistent information for them on how they can best care for their babies."

The project will rely heavily on education, training, and the resources of several partners, such as Union Hospital.

"They'll be providing a lot of the simulation pieces for the OB patient and for that mother," said Large. "So we can deliver that either through video or face-to-face training for them in this county."

IRHA will also utilize their online platform to provide a greater reach of women with at-home resources, and the end goal is to be able to use the initiative to help mothers all over Indiana.

"IRHA hopes to pilot this project here in the Wabash Valley," said Kelso. "And if the data shows that it does make a difference, then it will enable our state and IRHA to spread it around other parts of the state."

Large says the program will focus on pre-and post-partum care and that community health workers will be working with mothers for the first year after the child is born to provide them with routine checkup and information regarding things like cribs and car seats.

Behavioral and mental health care will also be provided through the program. 

Large says the program leaders are always looking for more partners to include, so if you know of any maternity resources in the Valley and would like to contribute, contact Heather Grable, MS, RRT, at 812-478-3919 x 225.


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