FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — As Indiana’s infant mortality rate drops, the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) is rolling out new initiatives to keep the momentum going.
The department announced the state is seeing its biggest decrease in the infant mortality rate in six years. In 2018, 559 babies died before the age of one year, down from 602 deaths in 2017. It is the steepest drop off for Indiana’s infant mortality rate since 2012. Data shows that the infant mortality rate for black infants dropped 16 percent while the rate for Hispanic infants dropped nearly 20 percent.
The news comes as the state rolled out their OB Navigator program in Allen County. OB Navigator is a home visiting program that will connect Hoosier women with pregnancy resources in their area like Healthier Moms and Babies.
“We help them with prenatal care coordination with their doctor, if they need transportation, if they need medicaid we get them hooked up with that,” said Paige Wilkins, Exec. Director for Healthier Moms and Babies.
The state’s program will guide women through their pregnancy and the first six to twelve months after their babies are born to give Indiana infants the best shot at survival. Allen is the first county to launch with 19 other high-risk counties where babies are most likely to die before their first birthday will follow throughout the year.
“The new OB Navigator program that is launching in the areas of the state at highest risk for infant mortality includes specific strategies to help connect at-risk women with community resources to help them have a healthy pregnancy and support them after their baby is born,” said State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG, in a press release. ” “Indiana has been investing heavily in improving health outcomes for moms and babies as we work toward Governor Holcomb’s goal of having the lowest infant mortality rate in the Midwest by 2024. It’s heartening to see those efforts pay off so that more Hoosier babies can celebrate their first birthdays.”
Expecting mothers who are looking for resources are encouraged to call the MOMS Helpline at 1-844-MCH-MOMS (1-844-624-6667) and download the Liv app, a mobile app for anyone who is thinking about becoming pregnant, currently expecting or who recently became a parent. It is also available online at askliv.com.
Grant, Blackford, and Jay Counties are also slated to launch OB Navigator this year. Wilkins said it is too soon to tell how effective the OB Navigator program will be in Allen County because it is a new and innovative approach and because resource organizations in Allen County tend to work together already. Still, she said home visiting programs do usually have good results.
“When you look at infant mortality rates in communities that have low infant mortality rates, how they have addressed that is through home visiting programs,” said Wilkins. “Not only just providing you with that prenatal education but also they’re providing them support and confidence.”
Wilkins said when expecting mothers feel confident and supported in their pregnancies, it’s easier for them to absorb the information they need to raise healthy babies, and that has the potential to lower the rate.
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