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Indiana law aims to tackle infant mortality rates

Infant mortality review teams bill

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — In a little over two weeks, an Indiana law goes into effect with the hopes that more Hoosier infants live past their first birthday.

It happens, but we don’t often talk about it. In 2017, 602 babies in Indiana died before reaching a year old.

“It’s devastating to think,” said Gretchen Martin, the director of the Fatality Review and Prevention Division of the Indiana State Department of Health. “That’s a number that’s larger than the high school I went to. So it’s a lot of babies.”

It hits hardest in Jay County. As of 2017, the infant mortality rate there was 13.2. Grant and Shelby counties have rates of 9.2 The statewide rate, though, decreased from 2016-17.

“So, how can we improve our systems that deal with moms and babies, so we have better health outcomes for our moms and babies?” Martin asked.

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Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill into law that gives the counties the option to create an infant mortality review committee.

“The county health department, hospital or another entity that’s approved by the State Department of Health can implement a local team. Then the State Department of Health provides oversight, guidance, training and help with technical assistance,” Martin said.

Those teams will gather social history, autopsy reports and medical records.

About child fatality reviews, DCS Director Terry Stigdon said, “Currently, the way child fatalities are looked at, DCS has a review, Department of Health has a review. So it’s crucial for us to come together to look at all child fatalities, so we can learn what can we do to prevent any future child fatalities.”

According to the new law, the teams would then be required to send yearly reports to the state health department.

The new law sailed through the Statehouse this past session, passing both chambers unanimously.

“We know there are smoking-related issues, drug-related issues,” said State Sen. Erin Houchin, a Republican from Salem. “We really need this group to get our hands around the root causes of the high rate of infant mortality in our state.” 

The bill takes effect July 1.

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