TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - According to the Indiana State Department of Health 602 infants died in Indiana in 2017. An infant mortality rate of 7.3 percent.
The national average in the United States is 5.8 percent. That high rate of infant mortality has been a focus for local health departments and the legislature for years. Now the Tippecanoe County Health Department, along with area hospitals, are taking action in a different way.
"Tippecanoe based on 2019 numbers was number 7 for high infant mortality rate so that's why we decided to take action," said Khala Hochstedler the Tippecanoe County Health Department Administrator.
The Tippecanoe county health department will soon be hiring an infant mortality nurse who will track data to help prevent infant deaths. It will also create a new review team.
"This task force will focus on fetal infant mortality to review those rates and get those numbers down too,” added Hochsedler. “This new task force will be incorporating all these other counties and our task force currently is only for this county for child and infant."
This position will review cases from not only Tippecanoe county but also 11 other counties in the area.
"We have a different lens,” said Karen Bullard Director of Nursing Operations, Women and Children Service Franciscan Health. “We examine it through the maternal care aspect and will look at fetal demises 20 weeks and greater gestation up to an infant's death within the first year of life."
The new position was created by the state legislature and a grant from the Indiana Department of health. However, both Franciscan Health and IU Health Arnett helped fund the position as well. A community effort that health officials say is necessary.
"We need to come together to really understand what's going on in those communities,” added Bullard. We need to see if we can improve access to care and the quality of care and other infrastructure within the communities to help ensure safe and healthy resilient families."
The nurse who is hired will interview mothers who have lost their babies about their prenatal care and find out what type of access they had to care during and after their pregnancy. The counties that will be included in the review team are Tippecanoe, Benton, Boone, Carrol, Cass, Clinton Fountain, Jasper, Montgomery, Palaski, Warren and White counties.