As the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte (HFL) prepared their strategic directions for building a healthier community, a key area of focus was healthier babies. The idea is that giving an infant the healthiest start at the beginning of life contributes to an overall healthier community later.
Experts agree that birthweight is an important indicator of a healthy start to life and a reflection of maternal quality of life. And La Porte County definitely has some gaps to close when it comes to breaking down the social-economic barriers that stand between pregnant women, babies, and the clinical care they need.
The good news is, the HFL has brought key players around the table for intensive discussions and planning to tackle these gaps.
According to Ten2030.org, a comprehensive county health statistics interactive website made available to the community by the HFL, La Porte County’s infant mortality and low birth weight rates are higher than the state of Indiana and the top U.S. performers. Babies born with low birth weight are more likely than babies of normal weight to have health problems and require specialized medical care throughout life. According to the site, low birth weight is typically caused by premature birth and fetal growth restriction, both of which are influenced by a mother’s health and genetics.
In 2017, La Porte County’s low birth weight rate was 9.4 percent, compared to 8.3 percent for the state, and 8.3 percent for the nation. The county’s very low birth rate was 2.2 percent compared to Indiana’s 1.5 percent, and the nation’s 1.4 percent rates.
The most important thing a mother can do to prevent low birth weight, experts agree, is to seek prenatal care, take prenatal vitamins, stop smoking, and stop drinking and using drugs.
Looking at La Porte County’s statistics, it appears there could be a direct relationship between the higher rate of low birth weight babies, and the lack of prenatal care. La Porte County’s prenatal care rate is 58.9 percent compared to the state’s rate of 68.6 percent, and the U.S. rate of 77.3 percent.
The infant mortality rate in La Porte County is 7 for every 1,000 live births compared to 7.3 in the state and 5.9 nationally. The number of mothers who smoked during pregnancy is 21.6 percent in La Porte County compared to 13.5 percent in the state and 6.9 percent nationally.
Considering these and other statistics, the HFL has formulated the Partners for Healthier Babies initiative to establish impactful strategies for maternal and child health in La Porte County. The coalition is a collaboration of medical providers, public health agencies, not-for-profit organizations, parents, and community members. They are now working on strategies to address the social, behavioral, and medical health risk factors that contribute to infant mortality and low birthweight to make a positive impact on birth outcomes.
Organizations participating include:
- Dunebrook, Inc.
- Franciscan Alliance, Maternal Care
- Franciscan Alliance, Physician Network, OB Offices
- Goodwill Industries of Michiana, Inc.
- HealthLinc Community Health Center – La Porte & Michigan City
- Indiana State Health Department
- La Porte County Health Department
- La Porte County Government
- La Porte Hospital, Women’s & Children’s Service Line
- La Porte Physician Network Physicians, OB Offices
- Minority Health Coalition of La Porte County
- Women’s Care Center
While the HFL already has funded a number of healthy children initiatives in their first few grant cycles (you can find those projects here, and here), the Partners for Healthier Babies initiative will create specific strategies and tactics around infant and maternal health, and the HFL will then consider facilitating or funding initiatives in this particular area.
For more information about the HFL and all of their projects centered on helping La Porte become one of the top 10 healthiest communities in Indiana by 2020, visit them online at https://hflaporte.org/.