IN Minority Health Coalition Works to Lower Infant Mortality Rates
Monday, May 8, 2023
Indiana ranks eighth in the country for stillbirth and infant mortality numbers, as many counties lack access to obstetric care.
One out of every 165 pregnancies in the state ends in stillbirth, and there are almost seven infant deaths per one thousand live births.
These rates are higher among Black women, so the Indiana Minority Health Coalition is working to reduce them.
The coalition offers the services of doulas - trained professionals who assist before, during and after a pregnancy with physical and emotional support and information.
Coalition Maternal Child Health Manager Lauren Lancaster said doulas are assigned to areas throughout Indiana - and more are needed.
"In our program," said Lancaster, "we have a doula program that covers St. Joseph, Elkhart, Laporte, Howard, Cass, and Miami counties."
According to the March of Dimes, Indiana saw 529 infant deaths in 2019 - the most recent reporting year. The causes include birth defects, preterm birth and low birth weight, maternal complications, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
The highest number of pregnancy complications are reported in Grant, Madison, Parke, Switzerland and Vanderburgh counties.
In 2020, the leaders of three of Indiana's largest healthcare systems - Community Health Network, Eskenazi Health, and Indiana University Health - acknowledged health care disparities and inequities in the state's minority communities, describing systemic racism a "public health crisis."
Lancaster said Black women should demand equal care for a safe and healthy delivery and baby.
"If you feel that your provider is not acting upon what you believe to be an issue within your pregnancy, go see another provider," said Lancaster. "Or if you have to, go to the emergency room - but make sure that you're being heard and that you're being listened to."
The coalition in partnership with Anthem Health created a multilingual app, "Count the Kicks," to assist those who are pregnant with tracking fetal movement - a key indicator of the baby's health, especially in the third trimester.
Lancaster said in an emergency, the app can verify with a healthcare provider that immediate care is needed.
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