Indiana health officials say the key to reducing the state's chronically high infant mortality rates is to improve infant death rates among minorities.
Indiana needs to cut its infant death rate by one-sixth in five years to reach a federal goal of holding the rate to six deaths for every thousand live births. The mortality rate among whites is already at that goal, but babies born to African-American Hoosiers are two-and-a-half times more likely to die before their first birthday.
Deputy health commissioner Jennifer Walthall says the infant death rate is just the clearest manifestation of health disparities across the board.
Walthall says reducing the disparities requires an emphasis on community-focused care.
“By connecting women to care, we can improve their outcomes,” Walthall says. “We need to connect on their terms, not on our terms.”
Walthall says the state needs to continue efforts to educate pregnant women about prenatal care, smoking cessation and the importance of breastfeeding. She says the state doesn't need a new round of pilot programs, but needs to expand programs which are already effective.
State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams says he’s convinced the expansion of the Healthy Indiana Plan insurance package will improve infant mortality statistics.
“Not because of the moms but because of the women who aren’t moms yet, who we’re getting healthcare for and creating a point of contact where they can come in and have that discussion about what it means to be healthy before they get pregnant,” Adams says.