Ensuring More Ind. Children Celebrate 1st Birthdays

Posted On December 04, 2013

By Mary Kuhlman


Photo by Mary Kuhlman

(Indianapolis, Ind.) – A new effort is under way to ensure that more Indiana babies are blowing out a candle on their first birthday.


The state’s infant mortality rate is 25 percent higher than the national average, and Dr. William VanNess, commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health, said his department is making it its No. 1 priority.


“Losing a child is one of the worst things that can happen to somebody, so it is about heartbreak,” he said. “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.”


Under Gov. Mike Pence’s leadership, the Indiana State Department of Health launched a new initiative to develop more community partnerships, first by analyzing local data and then by providing that data to local community leaders who can design targeted solutions.


VanNess said they are hoping 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,” he said. “They just haven’t been able to change it significantly.”


While many risk factors are associated with infant mortality, VanNess said smoking during pregnancy tops the list. Other risk factors include obesity, a lack of breastfeeding, sudden infant death syndrome and accidents.


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.