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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, November 02, 2019 1:00 am

Furthermore ...

Vital Healthy Start program could use a healthy boost

After his Healthy Start Reauthorization Act was passed out of a Senate committee this week, Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown noted that infant mortality is a particularly devastating problem in his state.

“Despite having some of the finest doctors and best children's hospitals in the country, Ohio still falls far short,” Brown said. Indiana falls short, too. In 2017, the last year for which statistics are available, the infant death rate was 7.2 per 1,000 births in Ohio; in Indiana, it was 7.3. The national rate during that period was 5.8 deaths per 1,000 births.

The rate of black infant mortality in Indiana and Ohio is much higher than the overall rate within those states; Allen County's black infant mortality rate led the state in 2015.

The Healthy Start program, which began under President George H.W. Bush in 1991, helps fund state and local organizations targeting those disparities by working with expectant and new mothers to encourage healthy outcomes for their babies. “By improving access to quality health care and culturally competent services,” Brown's office reported, “the Healthy Start program has helped to address these disparities and reduce infant mortality rates among its program participants to 5.2 infant deaths per 1,000 live births” – lower than the national average.

This year, Indiana received almost $5 million in Healthy Start grants, with almost $906,000 going to programs funded by the Fort Wayne Medical Society Foundation, Inc.

The reauthorization act is now up for consideration by the full Senate. In this tumultuous political climate, such a deserving bill could be overlooked. Indiana's senators should help Brown see that his bill gets the attention it deserves.