Indiana summit examines infant mortality

Regional News

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — State officials say 602 babies died before their first birthday in Indiana in 2016.

Health care leaders met Friday to talk about ways to combat infant mortality in Indiana. Almost 3,000 infants have died in the last five years.

“It’s not fair for our babies to die before their first birthday,” Lori Clark with the Indiana Chapter of the March of Dimes said.

That’s the reason Community Health Network and the State Department of Health led this year’s Infant Mortality Summit. Attendees shared ways to keep more babies and moms alive.

State statistics show 25% of black Indiana babies died from sudden unexpected death syndrome in 2016, which is why safe infant sleep was one of the summit’s topics.

“Alone, on their back in a crib. ABC’s very simple: no blankets, no bumper pads, no cute stuffed animals,” said Dr. Kris Box, the state health commissioner. “No sleeping with children or parents.”

Data shows Indiana’s 2017 infant mortality rate fell slightly from the previous year to 7.3 per 1,000 live births, but the state has the highest rate compared to seven other Midwest states. Here’s the breakdown, according to Community Health Network: Iowa, 5.3 deaths per 1,000 live births; Minnesota, 4.8; Wisconsin, 6.4; Illinois, 6.1; Missouri, 6.2; Michigan, 6.8; Ohio, 7.2; and Indiana, 7.3

“We’re seeing slow declines among infant mortality amongst white babies, but we’re seeing an increase among black babies,” said Dr. Indy Lane, an obstetrician-gynecologist and the women’s product line physician lead for Community Health Network.

Indiana’s rate for black infants was 15.3 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2017, according to Community Health Network. The infant mortality rate for black infants was 14.4 in 2016 and 13.2 in 2015.

Lane said the reason for the higher mortality rate for black infants is complicated, but high-risk conditions include hypertension, diabetes and other barriers impact babies.

“I think that in communities of color, there are sometimes a lack of resources. There is a clear mistrust of the health care industry and health care professionals,” Lane said. “I think as health care professionals, we need to do a better job of understanding cultural differences and racial differences and some of the implicit biases we just naturally have.”

State officials said they are touring Indiana to promote a new program called OB Navigator. It was designed to break the barriers Lane mentioned and to connect pregnant women in high-risk areas to a health-based worker.

The infant mortality rate and efforts to address it, all have the attention of state lawmakers.

“We have to understand how to engage mothers in regard to their children, Year 1 and beyond,” said state Rep. Gregory W. Porter, a Democrat from Indianapolis, who attended the summit.

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