Fewer children in Indiana are dying before their first birthdays, and state officials said Wednesday infant mortality rates among black and Hispanic infants fell sharply last year.
The overall rate was 6.8 per 1,000 babies in 2018, down from 7.3 the year before, according to new data from the Indiana State Department of Health. Rates for black and Hispanic children remain above the national average but fell last year to 13.0 and 6.1, respectively.
In 2017, the rate was 15.4 for black infants and 7.6 for Hispanic babies.
“Indiana has been investing heavily in improving health outcomes for moms and babies as we work toward Gov. Holcomb's goal of having the lowest infant mortality rate in the Midwest by 2024,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said. “It's heartening to see those efforts pay off so that more Hoosier babies can celebrate their first birthdays.”
Among those efforts are local initiatives to educate families about keeping children healthy and OB Navigator, a pilot program launched this week by the state to combat infant mortality. The program, which will expand this year to 19 other counties with high rates, offers information about infant mortality and how to prevent deaths.
Among white infants, the rate rose slightly in 2018 to 6.0. The rate was 5.9 per 1,000 in 2017.
The problem is particularly troublesome in Allen County, where some rates of child death before age 1 are among the highest in Indiana. In 2017, the rate in ZIP code 46806, on Fort Wayne's south side, was 15.4 – nearly three times the national average that year of 5.8.
County-level data have not been analyzed, said Greta Sanderson, a spokeswoman for the state health department. That could be released by the end of March, she said.
Paige Wilkins, executive director of Healthier Moms and Babies, called the state figures “great news” but said efforts to educate new parents about safe sleep for their babies should continue.
“More work needs to be done,” she said. “There's always more work that needs to be done.”