INDIANAPOLIS (WTWO/WAWV) — Indiana’s infant mortality rate fell in 2019 to the lowest level in state recorded history, Governor Eric J. Holcomb announced today, evidence that efforts to give every child the best start in life and address issues of disparities are working.
“We are committed to ensuring the best chance for a healthy pregnancy and a strong start to life for Indiana’s newborns,” Gov. Holcomb said. “While we celebrate these results, our work is far from finished, and we won’t rest as we work to protect our youngest.”
Preliminary data released by the Indiana Department of Health shows the statewide infant mortality rate fell from 6.8 per 1,000 live births in 2018 to 6.5 in 2019. The mortality rate among Black infants fell from 13.0 in 2018 to 11.0 in 2019. A total of 527 Indiana babies died before their first birthdays in 2019, down from 559 in 2018 and 602 in 2017.
This marks the third year of decline in the infant mortality rate and is the lowest level since 1900, when rates were first recorded in Indiana. Infant mortality is defined as the death of a baby before their first birthday and is one of the leading indicators of a nation’s health.
“We’ve known all along that reducing Indiana’s infant mortality rate would take time and partnerships, and it’s gratifying to see that work pay off,” said State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG. “We must continue to encourage early prenatal care and promote safe sleep practices so that we can celebrate more first birthdays in Indiana.”
Gov. Holcomb made reducing Indiana’s infant mortality rate a priority and in 2018 charged the Department of Health, in partnership with the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration and Department of Child Services, with helping Indiana achieve the lowest infant mortality rate in the Midwest by 2024. Data from other states for 2019 is not yet available.
As part of that goal and his Next Level agenda, the Governor signed House Enrolled Act 1007 into law in 2019 to create an obstetrician-gynecologist navigator program focused on a sustained education and outreach effort. The initiative connects expectant or new mothers to health, social and other services they need via a navigator who provides personalized support, resources and referrals through the first year of their babies’ lives. The state legislature committed $6.6 million toward the program over two years.
The program, which is transitioning to be known as My Healthy Baby, officially launched in January with a goal of serving 20 counties by the end of 2020, but the program expansion will exceed that goal this year. It is currently operating in Allen, Bartholomew, Blackford, Clark, Crawford, Delaware, Dubois, Grant, Henry, Jay, Lake, LaPorte, Madison, Marion, Martin, St. Joseph, Shelby, Randolph, and Wayne counties. Programs in Cass, Fulton and Miami counties are scheduled to be operational by the end of October.
Another 25 counties are expected to be added in 2021, with the ultimate goal of making the program available to all pregnant women who are insured by Medicaid by mid-2023.
“The best way to reach Gov. Holcomb’s goal of having the lowest infant mortality rate in the Midwest is to focus our efforts on the communities that are disproportionately impacted and ensure that women have the tools they need to achieve a healthy pregnancy,” Dr. Box said. “My Healthy Baby focuses on helping women in the communities that are at the highest risk for infant mortality so that they have someone to walk alongside them throughout their pregnancy and parenting journey.”
Indiana has taken other steps to improve infant and maternal health in recent years, including:
- Developing a Levels of Care system for birthing hospitals to ensure that women deliver their babies at the facility that best meets their needs
- Adopting obstetrical safety bundles through the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health
- Allocating more than $27 million in Safety PIN grants since 2017 to community partners for both novel and evidence-based programs to reduce infant mortality and improve the health and well-being of mothers and babies
- Requiring prenatal care providers to conduct a verbal screening for substance use disorder for all pregnant women so they can receive services that improve their health and that of their babies
- Establishing a committee to review every maternal death in the state, with the goal of understanding the causes and developing strategies to prevent future cases
Indiana Hospital Association President Brian Tabor said in a statement, “Indiana hospitals are grateful for the leadership of Governor Holcomb and State Health Commissioner Kris Box and are thrilled to be a partner in Indiana’s successful effort to reduce infant mortality. Across the state, hospitals are implementing evidence-based best practices to improve health outcomes for moms and babies. The Indiana Hospital Association recently launched the INspire Hospital of Distinction recognition program to celebrate our collective improvement journey. We look forward to building on the progress we’ve made and achieving Governor Holcomb’s goal for Indiana to have the lowest rate of infant mortality in the Midwest by 2024.”
Expectant women, new mothers and individuals from anywhere in the state can call the MOMS Helpline at 1-844-MCH-MOMS (1-844-624-6667) to find resources available in their communities.