NEW ALBANY — Indiana’s top health official focused on the state’s programming to support maternal and infant health during a presentation Tuesday at Baptist Health Floyd.
Indiana State Health Commissioner, Dr. Kris Box discussed the state’s efforts to support mothers and children across the state.
The event included talks about My Healthy Baby, a program that will be implemented in Floyd and Harrison counties starting September 12th. The program connects women with family support providers who can guide them through pregnancy.
The program has already been implemented in other Indiana counties, including Clark, and the plan is to roll out My Healthy Baby statewide by mid-2023, Box said.
My Healthy Baby is administered by the Indiana Department of Health, the Indiana Department of Social and Family Services and the Indiana Department of Children’s Services. The program was created in 2019 through House Enrollment Act 1007.
“We think this is a really, really important part of how we’re going to lower this infant mortality rate in the state of Indiana,” Box said. “The goal of this program is to connect as many women as possible who are pregnant with prenatal care and a family support provider, or home visitor, who is there to be their constant companion, their trusted individual that might help. connect them with resources, whether it’s treatment for substance abuse disorders or mental health issues, making sure they’re going to their prenatal appointments.”
Box addressed the state’s infant mortality challenges, saying that in 2020, Indiana had 522 babies who died before their first birthday.
The state “has traditionally had one of the worst infant mortality rates in the country,” she said.
“I will tell you that in 2019 our infant mortality rate of 6.5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births was the lowest infant mortality rate we’ve ever had in our state, so we’re making progress, but as you can see, we still have a long way to go.”
She noted disparities in infant mortality among minority populations, particularly black and Hispanic residents. Box described infant mortality as “a window into the health of a nation, a state and a county.”
“We know that healthier moms make healthier babies, and that’s really important when you look at how Indiana has one of the highest smoking rates in the country and we have one of the highest obesity rates in the nation. country,” she said. “And both of these are significant contributing factors to preterm birth and child mortality.”
Through My Healthy Baby, the family support provider can visit pregnant women receiving Medicaid benefits in their homes or other spaces that are convenient for them. They offer free guidance tailored to a mother’s specific needs and concerns.
Family support providers also help women in the 12 months after childbirth.
Box said families who have access to home visits have improved outcomes for mother and child.
My Healthy Baby includes a referral system to connect women to the program. They may be referred to the program by loved ones or health care providers.
Box also discussed other programs available from the state, including the Indiana Pregnancy Promise Program, a free program from the Social and Family Services Administration. It is available to pregnant women who are eligible for Medicaid coverage and have struggled with opioid use.
The volunteer program provides substance abuse disorder and mental health support, and helps individuals access prenatal appointments.
“They make sure that those individuals have their prenatal appointments, but not only that, but that they make their appointments,” Box said. “They ask, did you make it, and if not, why not — was it a transportation issue, was it a childcare issue, how can I help you with that.”
“Then they make sure that women have treatment for their opioid use and have the opportunity to recover and stay in recovery, that they have mental health services, because we know that many women are using because they have anxiety or depression. that has passed without being treated”, she said.
She cited the results of the state’s maternal mortality review, which began in 2018.
“What we found is that the No. 1 cause of maternal mortality — that is the death of a woman while she’s pregnant or throughout the first year after giving birth — the No. 1 cause is overdose,” Box said.
Floyd County Health Officer Dr. Tom Harris was among those who attended Tuesday’s presentation. He said programs such as My Healthy Baby and Indiana Pregnancy Promise are helpful in “reaching at-risk populations.”
“And that’s the whole point here — to provide systems of care and support for people who need it,” he said. “The good news is that Floyd County has lower infant mortality rates than the state and national levels, so we’re doing well on a local basis, but we still have populations that are at risk and these programs are great ways to attract people who need help to what they need.”