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November 3, 2013

Sullivan County infant mortality rate among highest in state

TERRE HAUTE — Sullivan County ranks 11th highest for infant mortality in Indiana, while Vigo County ties for 33rd with one other county, according to data from the Indiana Department of Health.

Infant mortality is the death of a baby before his or her first birthday. The infant mortality rate is an estimate of the number of infant deaths for every 1,000 live births.

Sullivan County had 8.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, while Vigo County had 6.9 and Clay County had 6.3. Clay ranked 47th and tied with three other counties, Putnam, Hancock and Howard.

The rates are the average for 2001-2010; included are 65 counties with 20 or more infant deaths for the 10 combined years.

Those with fewer infant deaths, including Parke and Vermillion counties, are not included because data is considered not stable, according to Ken Severson, state Department of Health spokesman.

Smoking, obesity, drug abuse, lack of prenatal care — leading to low birth weight and premature births — are the common themes in Indiana, according to state officials.

Joni Wise, administrator with the Vigo County Health Department, said it’s important to continue educating women about the importance of prenatal care, good nutrition and not smoking during pregnancy.

Once a baby is born, placing it on its back to sleep is a way to lower the chances of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).  

In Vigo County, Wise believes there are several community partners working together to ensure healthier outcomes of babies, including March of Dimes; Women, Infants and Children; both Terre Haute hospitals and the health department.

Another example is Hamilton Center’s Healthy Families program, which provides home-based support to young parents, so they have the resources they need to be good parents.

The state has actively re-implemented child mortality review teams, which review the deaths of all children 18 and under to see how those deaths could have been prevented. Two Vigo County Health Department nurses are involved, Wise said.

For more information about how to have a healthy baby, go to www.indianaperinatal.org. Click on Mothers and Families at the top of the screen, which links to, “How to Have a Health Baby: Lessons Learned in Indiana.”

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