In 2015, 613 babies in Indiana died before their first birthday. These statistics are a call to action for our entire community. Thankfully, Parkview now has additional resources to aid in the fight.
This year, the Indiana State Department of Health set aside $11 million to fund competitive grants to support programs that address infant mortality. Parkview applied for a portion of the Safety PIN grant, and was awarded $3.6 million to implement new strategies to combat the infant mortality rate (IMR) in Allen County, with a heavy focus on the 46805 and 46806 zip codes.
“In part, the funding is for bringing on specialized individuals best managed by a healthcare system,” Patti Brahe, Senior Vice President, Women’s and Children’s Services, Parkview Health, said. “The best way to deal with infant mortality is to deal with the social factors impacting the community. This isn’t just a health issue, it’s bigger than that. We have to reach out to people where they are. This means really listening, enlisting the help of community partners and collaborating with area churches and organizations.”
Those community partners include agencies like St. Joseph Community Health Foundation, African-American Healthcare Alliance of Fort Wayne, Health Visions of Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne Allen County Department of Health, Chi Eta Phi Sorority, and many others.
Community health workers will receive training from Health Visions Fort Wayne, but partner with Parkview Community Nurses to increase reach and resources. We’ll begin with 12 workers, with the goal of getting to 18 eventually.
Another step in making progress, according to Patti, is promoting a healthy, honest dialogue. “We have to talk about what this really is, and the truth is, African American babies are dying more than white babies.” In fact, the white IMR in Allen County is 6.6 percent, while the African American IMR is 14 percent. To really focus in on the troubled areas, the IMR for African American babies in the 46806 zip code is 21.8, and 26.5 percent in the 46805 zip code. “Too many babies are dying. We need to engage with residents and build trust and understand their needs,” Patti said.
“To put it in perspective, the current IMR in Allen County is 7.8 percent. That’s 133 babies that died before their first birthday. If we could reach the national average (Healthy People 20/20) of 6 percent, we could save 40 babies over the course of three years. But we want to be even better than that.”
The funding will also be used to address things like food deserts, and will go toward gift cards for groceries. Other topics, such as transportation and overall women’s health are also being considered.
“We’ve been raising awareness for the last couple of years and now we’re ready to take steps to move the dial. This is about our values. Everybody wants a healthy baby, but sometimes there are circumstances that hinder that. As a community, we need to help change that.”