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Inaugural Vanderburgh County Infant Mortality Summit Scheduled for February

Van County Health Dept 1_STOCK.jpg
Tim Jagielo
The Vanderburgh County Health Department at 420 Mulberry Street in Evansville, Indiana.

Mortality rates for African Americans are three times higher than average; Former US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams keynote speaker

The statewide problem with infant mortality has prompted the creation of The Vanderburgh County Infant Mortality Summit.

It’s Friday, February 17, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Old National Events Plaza in Evansville.

Up to 400 will be able to attend this event, which is the first of its kind in the county. Keynote speaker is former US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams. Mayor Lloyd Winnicke and Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch will also speak at the summit.

County Health Department Administrator Joe Gries said the state of Indiana and Vanderburgh County has troubling numbers of infant mortality.

“So we wanted to put together this summit — and it'd be a call to action for our community, for our business leaders, for our local elected officials, for the health department, our other partners, local hospitals, community organizations,” Gries said.

“Just anybody that could help us expand our reach to these women to these families that need help, especially within our African American community. The rates for African American infant mortality is, in some years, two to three times higher than our non-Hispanic white rates.”

In 2021, Indiana averaged about 6.5 infant deaths per 1000 births. Vanderburgh County is 5.2. The infant mortality rate for African Americans is more than triple the average, at 17.9 deaths per 1000.

Gries said premature births are one cause for infant mortality with links to the mother’s health.

“So when women are smoking, or if they're overweight, high blood pressure; a lot of those things,” he said. “The health of the mother is just as important, so that they can deliver their babies at term.”

There are no immediate specific goals from the summit, but Gries said afterward they’ll tap their community partners to spread the word about this issue.

“In a nutshell, we need to make sure our mothers are healthy, so that they can deliver healthy babies,” he said. “And so, substance abuse disorders, mental health, physical health, emotional health, all of that plays into this and making sure those mothers and those families have resources that help them to deliver that healthy baby.”

Gries said the county does have programs that start care for expectant mothers for before birth and up to three years old.

“We have a program here that works with families, pregnant moms and families to help reduce infant mortality,” he said.

Interested parties can register here:

Infant Mortality Summit Registration