State Launches Effort to Reduce Infant Mortality

A new effort is under way to ensure more Indiana babies are able to blow out candles on their first birthdays. The state’s infant mortality rate is 25 percent higher than the national average. Indiana Sate Department of Health Commissioner Dr. William VanNess says reducing that number is the department’s top priority.

“Losing a child is one of the worst things that can happen to somebody. So it is about heartbreak. That’s why we’re saying this is like motherhood and apple pie. Nobody wants a baby not to get to their first birthday, and everybody should want to make a difference,” said VanNess.

VanNess hopes better collaboration between health departments, local minority health coalitions, community health centers, hospitals and physician groups will help to save lives.

“We really are trying to get this fixed, and it’s not that a lot of good people haven’t really worked on it, ‘cause they have. They just haven’t been able to change it significantly,” VanNess said.

According to the Kids Count in Indiana Data Book, in 2011 the number of babies who died in the first year of life was 643, similar to the number of students in two elementary schools. While many risk factors are associated with infant mortality, VanNess says smoking during pregnancy tops the list. Other risk factors include obesity, a lack of breastfeeding, sudden infant death syndrome and accidents.