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Politically Speaking

Infant Mortality

March 13, 2019 (Updated: 2:21 PM)
Author Erika Celeste

Governor Eric Holcomb recently made reducing the infant mortality rate in Indiana a top priority. When his press secretary mentioned to me that reducing those numbers is his new baby, I thought okay, we’ll make sure to include a few questions when host Elizabeth Bennion interviews him. It didn’t seem like that big a deal. Granted no one wants babies to die, but really in this day and age, in Indiana? It couldn’t possibly be that huge could it?

Then I started doing a little research. The results were surprising. Did you know that more than 3,000 babies in Indiana died before their first birthdays between 2013 and 2017? Broken down that’s enough to fill 150 kindergarten classrooms. What about the fact that Hoosier maternal mortality rates have risen—yes risen 18.6 percent since 2016? That’s crazy! We’re one of the richest countries on the face of the planet, yet we come in 12th for infant mortality rates behind Japan, Sweden, and Canada. That might not sound so bad right? After all they’re great countries. But our infant mortality rates are 71 percent higher than the top of that list.

So enough complaining, it doesn’t fix anything. What I have learned so far is that Michigan is doing better than Indiana on infant mortality rates. Part of the reason comes down to environment: poorer air pollution combined with more smoking, obesity, and diabetes make Hoosiers more susceptible. Public health funding—in which Indiana ranks 49th, doesn’t help either. The good news is these are fixable things. We can make these things better.

The next time someone asks why vote? Tell them it will literally make a difference for our kids. Lawmakers connect the dots of our lives. They literally decide what money goes where and why. Funding programs that reduce diabetes, obesity, and smoking cessation save lives and in the long run strengthen our economy. When moms and dads don’t smoke, exercise, eat healthy, and have proper access to medicine it not only saves the lives of unborn children, they reduce the number of sick days for the kiddos already here. That in turn reduces the number of missed work days and trips to the emergency rooms for those who don’t have proper insurance. It also frees up families disposable income to help buy more which fuels the economy.

Strong foundations start with strong communities. But we won’t get there until we value ourselves and invest in the wellbeing of our infants and moms…of and one more thing. This isn’t just a women’s issue. Study after study supports the fact that male partners who take an active role in the lives of the infants and women around them decrease the level of infant and maternal mortality in their communities. It just goes to show, we really are all in this together.