NEW ALBANIA – Indiana’s top health official focused on programming the state to support maternal and child 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 babies across the state.
The event included a talk on My Healthy Baby, a program that will be launched in Floyd and Harrison counties starting September 12. The program connects women to family support providers who can guide them through their pregnancy.
The program has already launched 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 operated by the Indiana Department of Health, the Indiana Family Administration and Social Services, and the Indiana Department of Childhood Services. The program was created in 2019 through House Enrolled Act 1007.
“We think it’s a really, really important part of how we’re going to reduce this infant mortality rate in the state of Indiana,” Box said. “The goal of this program is to connect as many pregnant women as possible to antenatal care and to a family support provider, or home visitor, who is there to be their constant companion, their trusted person who can help. link them to resources, whether it’s a treatment for substance abuse disorders or mental health issues, making sure they make it to their antenatal appointments.
Box addressed the state’s challenges related to infant mortality, saying Indiana had 522 children who died before their first birthday in 2020.
The state has “traditionally one of the worst infant mortality rates in the nation,” he 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 have ever had in our state, so we are making progress, but as you can see, it has still a long way to go “.
He noted disparities in infant mortality among minority populations, especially 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 nation and we have one of the highest obesity rates in the nation,” she said. . “And both are significantly contributing factors to preterm birth and infant mortality.”
Through My Healthy Baby, the family support provider can visit pregnant women who are receiving Medicaid benefits in their home or other comfortable setting. They provide free guidance adapted to the mother’s specific needs and concerns.
Family support providers also care for women for 12 months after the baby is born.
Box said families who have access to home visits have better outcomes for the mother and baby.
My Healthy Baby includes a referral system to connect women to the program. They may be referred to the program by loved ones or healthcare professionals.
Box also discussed other programs available through the state, including the Indiana Pregnancy Promise Program, a free program from the Family and Social Services Administration. It is available to pregnant women who are eligible for Medicaid coverage and have struggled with opioid use.
The voluntary program offers support for substance abuse disorder and mental health and helps people access antenatal appointments.
“They make sure those people have their antenatal appointments, but not just that, but they make their own appointments,” Box said. “They ask, did you make it and if not, why not – it was a transportation problem, it was a childcare problem, how can I help you with that.”
“So they make sure that women get treatment for their opioid use and have the opportunity to recover and stay healing, that they have mental health services, because we know many women are using them because they have underlying anxiety or depression that it was not treated, “he said.
He mentioned the findings of the state’s maternal mortality review, which began in 2018.
“What we found is that what is the # 1 cause of maternal mortality – the death of a woman during pregnancy or throughout the first year after giving birth – the # 1 cause is overdose,” Box said. .
Floyd County Health Officer Dr. Tom Harris was among those attending Tuesday’s presentation. He said programs like My Healthy Baby and Indiana Pregnancy Promise are useful for “reaching populations at risk”.
“And that’s the whole goal here: to provide the assistance and support systems to the people who clearly need them,” he said. “The good news is that Floyd County has lower infant mortality rates than state and national levels, so we’re doing well locally, but we still have populations at risk and these programs are great ways to attract people who have need help what it needs “.