Tucked into Gov. Eric Holcomb’s State of the State address was a depressingly familiar issue.
Indiana’s shameful infant mortality rate, the number of children who die before their first birthdays.
That rate is 7.5 deaths per 1,000 live births. A report released last year puts the overall infant mortality rate in the United States at 5.9 deaths per 1,000, a 15 percent drop from 2005 to 2014.
“Six-hundred twenty-three babies didn’t live past the age of 1 in Indiana in 2016 — 623,” Holcomb said in his Jan. 9 address. “We can and will save more of them.”
To that end, the governor noted the importance of implementing a Levels of Care program to ensure that the highest-risk babies are delivered at hospitals with the facilities to meet the needs of the mother and the baby.
He said that Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, and FSSA secretary Dr. Jennifer Walthall would be “leading the charge.” Box is an Indianapolis doctor of obstetrics and Walthall previously served as the Division Chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine and, according to Holcomb, “still works a shift a week at Riley Hospital for Children in addition to her day job.”
Finally, Holcomb set a goal of becoming the best state in the Midwest for curbing infant mortality by 2024. That won’t be easy, given that Indiana’s rate lags behind the average of the states surrounding it.
Reaching Holcomb’s goal and ensuring that more Indiana babies live to see their first birthdays and beyond will take a comprehensive effort and focus that’s been lacking in the past. The governor has announced his intention to change that. We look forward to hearing the details of his plan. Because Indiana can’t afford to lose this battle for the youngest Hoosiers.