Marion County Reports Improvements in Infant Mortality Rates

October 18, 2013

(INDIANAPOLIS) – The Marion County Public Health Department reports strong improvements in infant mortality rates. Infant mortality is the death of a baby before his or her first birthday. The overall infant mortality rate for 2012, as well as the death rates among black infants and white infants, was at its lowest since 2002.

In 1984, Marion County had the nation’s highest black infant mortality rate among the 22 major U.S. cities with populations over 500,000. Since 1984, the overall infant mortality rate in Marion County has dropped from 14.2 infant deaths per 1000 live births, to 8.3 in 2012. Infant mortality rates for black infants decreased from 24.6 in 1984 to 12.7 in 2012. And, death rates among white infants dropped from 9.9 in 1984 to 5.2 in 2012.

“While these numbers are good news, too many infants are still dying needlessly each year,” said Virginia A. Caine, M.D., director of the Marion County Public Health Department. “We must constantly educate and provide services for women during and after pregnancy to help develop healthy babies.”

Top causes of infant mortality are low birth weight and pre-term deliveries, birth defects and accidents. Contributors to these causes include lack of adequate prenatal care, lack of folic acid, smoking and alcohol use. In Marion County, those at highest risk for experiencing an infant death are mothers under the age of 18 or age 35 and older.

The Marion County Public Health Department provides services through Indianapolis Healthy Start which offers education, referral and support services to pregnant women and their families. The goal is to improve infant survival rates in Marion County. B.A.B.E. – Beds and Britches, Etc. – is an incentive program that provides coupons to parents who utilize health care and social services. Coupons are redeemed at B.A.B.E. stores for new and gently used baby supplies.

The health department also works as part of the Indianapolis Healthy Baby consortium, which is celebrating 20 years of collaboration, partnerships and networking in Marion County. This community-based effort is dedicated to improving birth outcomes and reducing the number of babies who die before their first birthday. Solutions are sought through advocacy, innovative initiatives and policy development.

“Indianapolis has seen significant improvement in infant health and access to prenatal care over the last two decades,” said Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard. Continued efforts to reduce infant mortality rates will make the city a better place to live, work and raise a family. Thank you to the Marion County Public Health Department for your work to save lives and provide much needed services for parents.”

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