Business and Economics

State’s First Infant Mortality Summit Sets Agenda

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November 1, 2013 — Indiana State Department of Health says infant mortality issues are its top priority, so today the State conducted its first Indiana Infant Mortality Summit in Indianapolis.

A child death before the first birthday is identified as infant mortality, with a rate that’s an estimate of the number of infant deaths for every 1,000 live births.  This rate is used as an indicator to measure state and national health and well-being as factors that affect entire populations can arise in the mortality rate of infants.

The State Health Department says that in 2010 Indiana ranked 45th among states for infant mortality, with 7.5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, while the national rate was 6.1.

In 2011, Indiana’s rate was 7.7 infant deaths, while the preliminary U.S. rate was 6.05, where the top five causes of infant mortality are:

  • Serious birth defects
  • Baby born too small and too early (preterm, low birthweight)
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Baby affected by maternal complications
  • Baby is the victim of injuries (e.g., suffocation deaths)

Indiana’s infant mortality summit gathered health care providers, policy makers, public health professionals, faith-based and community leaders to address the issue with a sense of urgency.

State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. said, “Shortly after I was appointed Health Commissioner, the leadership team at the State Health Department came together to identify our state’s most urgent public health issues.  Infant mortality quickly rose to the top of that list. I was surprised to learn that Indiana has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the nation and I believe many Hoosiers may be unaware of this, as I was.”

The State Health Department says, Access to health care, lack of prenatal care, tobacco use, limited physical activity and diet and nutrition are factors that can contribute to negative pregnancy and birth outcomes, which can lead to increased infant mortality.”

Dr. VanNess said, “We lost 643 of our children before their first birthday in 2011.  That’s why we are all here at this important gathering today—for the children we’ve lost, their families and for our future children.”

The Summit included Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who stressed the importance of protecting Indiana’s children, thanking Indiana’s experts gathering to work on this critical initiative.

State Health Department information says a native Hoosier, David Lakey, M.D., used his keynote presentation to discuss what Texas has done to reduce infant mortality and lessons learned.  He’s Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, and Texas experienced a significant decline in infant mortality deaths from 2005-2010, according to the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The State Health Department says it plans to implement a statewide public education campaign next year, working with Indiana hospitals and others on issues such as hospital care, high risk pregnancy and prenatal care coordination, and the importance of carrying babies through 39 weeks of pregnancy.

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