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Infant mortality increases for some Hoosier families

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Hundreds of healthcare workers from Indiana filled a ballroom Thursday for the 10th Labor of Love infant Mortality Summit to learn about how they can improve infant mortality rates in their communities.

This years summit was branded Year of The Mom by State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box.

“If you don’t start with a healthy mom it’s very difficult to have a good outcome for the pregnancy,” Dr. Box said.

The state is working to create programs that reach women before they’re pregnant. The idea is to educate them on contraception and their current health situations that could contribute to an unhealthy pregnancy.

“If we have moms that are mired in substance use disorders, if we have moms that have diabetes that is out of control it increases congenital birth defects for baby it increases the risk of them being very small, or being born pre-term, or having to be born pre-term,” Dr. Box said.

In 2020 and 2021 Indiana saw an increase in infant mortality for African American families.

Dr. Box says that’s due in part because of the pandemic, “Many people were frightened to go to the hospital, to the labor and delivery unit, or even their healthcare office because they were worried they were going to get COVID from a sick person.”

The Hoosiers state also continued to see a gap in infant mortality rates between white Hoosiers and Latino Hoosiers.

“It’s very sad to see that,” said Reina Almanza who is a Spanish translator for patients.

She came to the summit to learn everything she can about the newest state programs so she can help close the gap in infant mortality in the Latino community.

“Our goal is to be able to communicate resources and make sure that they have the same knowledge that everybody else has, so we’re constantly bringing those messages to them. What resources are available and making sure they also have access to those same equal resources in their language and not just in English which a lot of them might not even speak,” Almanza said.

Dr. Box says the programs in place to bring down infant mortality are working. They just need to be expanded statewide to reach the most vulnerable communities. One of those programs will be coming in the new year.
“By May of 2023 we’ll have My Healthy Baby that’s rolled out into every single county, so every woman covered by Medicaid and that’s over 50% of our deliveries now; if they desire to be connected to a family support provider, or home visitor they can have that opportunity,” Dr. Box said.