Indiana's high infant mortality rate deserves attention...NOW

For immediate release:
Aug. 15, 2014


INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana has one of the nation’s worst infant mortality rates, and State Rep. Bionca Gambill (D-Terre Haute) said today that addressing that problem should be a priority for lawmakers in the months to come.

“During yesterday’s meeting of the Indiana Commission for Women, we began to consider what could be done to reverse these horrifying numbers, and it seems to me that we cannot afford to wait until the next legislative session to offer potential solutions,” Gambill said. “These problems are immediate and wide-ranging, and they demand immediate attention.”

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, Indiana has the 47th worst infant mortality rate in the nation at 7.7 per 1,000 births. In addition, the number of infants with a low birth weight has increased to 8.1 percent from 2001 to 2011, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that the percentage of Hoosier children who have not received their vaccinations on time has steadily increased in recent years.

“Now consider that the most recent statistics report that the percentage of expectant mothers receiving prenatal care during the first trimester of pregnancy decreased to 68 percent in 2011, and you will begin to see the scope of the problem we face and the need to find solutions now,” Gambill said.

“As a nurse, I have seen the people who are impacted by this problem and the need for it to be addressed at all levels, including government, the health care industry, and the men, women and children who provide the faces to these gloomy statistics,” she continued.

In the 2014 session of the Indiana General Assembly, House Democrats led by State Rep. Gail Riecken (D-Evansville) offered a potential solution by using Indiana Checkup Plan funds to provide grants to finance a variety of programs designed to reduce infant mortality rates. One example would be campaigns that work to inform mothers about the serious risks of drug use during pregnancy.

“Unfortunately, the administration of Gov. Mike Pence and the Republican super-majorities that control the Indiana House and Senate refused to support this program during the closing days of the 2014 session,” Gambill noted. “The attitude seemed to be that we should study the issue a little more, and perhaps come back in 2015 and try again.

“When you have the third-worst infant mortality rate in the country, I would humbly suggest that we do not need further study,” she said. “We need to be taking action. We need to be looking at what the private sector does to encourage healthy behavior through such programs as tobacco cessation programs.”

The rate of pregnant women who smoke in Knox County (one of five counties within Gambill's district) is about 20 percent above the national average. The Knox County Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Coalition offers a pregnancy program through its Indiana Tobacco Quitline for pregnant women. Programs like this one help to substantially reduce smoking and save lives as well as millions of dollars, all while improving the health of the individual and infant. The dollars designated for these specific programs have been decreased dramatically during the last 10 years.

“Most importantly, we need to act. The figures demand action, and I would humbly suggest that caring for our most vulnerable Hoosiers needs to be a higher priority for state government than cutting taxes for the very rich in our state,” Gambill concluded.