FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) A donation of $400,000 to the Riley Children’s Foundation was announced Tuesday at a news conference in Fort Wayne. The money will be used to fund ongoing support and education aimed at improving the infant mortality rate in Allen County.
Gifts made by Richard D. Waterfield and Larry Lee helped spur additional contributions resulting in the $400,000 total.
Indiana has ranked in the bottom tier of states in incidents of infant mortality for nearly two decades (41st nationally) according to Riley Children’s Foundation. Indiana’s and Allen County’s infant mortality rate is 7.3 deaths per 1,000 births, 25% higher than the national average of 5.8. Some Indiana zip codes have even higher infant mortality rates. For example, the zip code 46806 on the south side of Fort Wayne has an infant mortality rate of 15.4, nearly 3 times the national rate. Unsafe sleep is the most preventable cause of infant mortality and is related to one out of every six deaths (Source: ISDH 2018).
The money will be used to partner with Indiana University School of Medicine caregivers, and community and governmental organizations to bridge gaps preventing safe sleep practices in high risk zip codes. It will also be used to work with child care programs to provide and improve their quality for infant care and expand resources.
Healthier Moms and Babies, whose goal is to reduce infant mortality and improve the outcome of pregnancy in Allen County by offering health education and case management services to low-income, high-risk pregnant women and their families, will serve as the lead agency for the project locally. This effort in Allen County is modeled after an initiative currently underway in Marion County called Kohl’s Caring For Our Kids, led by Nancy Swigonski, M.D., M.P.H., MBA, a Professor of Pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine and Whitley Wynns, MA project manager. Since the inception of Kohl’s Caring for Our Kids in August of 2017, also made possible through a donation to Riley Children’s Foundation, 64 child care programs in Indianapolis have been engaged and 22 programs accelerated their advancement in their Paths to Quality rating level.