Infant mortality rate and smoking must be addressed
Saturday, June 07, 2014 5:00 AM
Of all the statistics regarding Hoosier health is there one that paints a more disgraceful picture of our collective priorities as a state than the infant mortality rate?
In Indiana, the rate is 7.7 deaths for every 1,000 live births; the national rate is 6.05. The rate for African-American babies, 12.4, is nearly twice the rate for white babies.
There's reason to be concerned, if not outraged, about the numbers, which Gov. Mike Pence has called "deplorable." But the general public seems disengaged from the issue.
Indiana Health Commissioner William C. VanNess says lowering the "horrible" Hoosier rate is one of his department's top priorities. His goal is to reduce the rate to 6.0 by 2020. Last year, he convened the first-ever state summit on the topic and offered up to $1 million in grants.
We agree with VanNess when he says that government isn't the ultimate solution to Indiana's infant mortality problem. But make no mistake: There is a role for government.
It's time for Indiana to stop being hypocritical about tobacco. For years, the General Assembly has raided money intended for smoking cessation programs. All of this while the state spends millions on health costs for infants born to mothers who smoke.
Given that 17 percent of pregnant women in Indiana smoke, smoking cessation efforts should be a priority.
There's plenty of work to do to reverse the bleak numbers. That will happen when the public starts paying attention.