Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

August 16, 2013

Editorial - Aug. 15, 2013: End the ‘horrible’ death rate

The issue: Indiana’s poor infant mortality rate.

Their view: While education and support are key, only proper health care and education will end this cycle.

When it comes to health, Indiana continues to fail miserably. The state ranks 41st nationally in overall health. From an obesity epidemic to tobacco use, Hoosiers continue to push the envelope when it comes to unhealthy behavior. And the latest news, although startling, is no different.

In 2011, Indiana had the nation’s 47th-highest infant mortality rate, with 7.7 of every 1,000 children who were born alive dying before their first birthday, according to provisional data.

Now, State Health Commissioner Dr. William C. VanNess II is making attempts to combat the state’s infant mortality rate — a statistic he calls “horrible.”

VanNess says lowering the death rate among the state’s youngest residents is one of the Indiana State Department of Health’s top three initiatives, and the state “can’t keep this hidden anymore.”

“Indiana is horrible at infant mortality. Horrible. We are 47th out of 50 states,” he said.

A report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Indiana ranked sixth nationally in 2010 for infant mortality.

The reason for the high death rate is difficult to pinpoint, but VanNess says Indiana has high rates of obesity and smoking, both of which tie into infant mortality. Data from 2010 showed that 17.1 percent of pregnant Indiana women smoked during pregnancy, compared with 9.2 percent nationally.

Indiana cannot accept these statistics, and we’re glad to see the State Department of Health focusing its efforts on reducing those numbers. Education and support will be the key to reducing mortality rates.

But ultimately the decision will be left to mothers, who must take notice of the risks. Smoking during pregnancy is dangerous to the baby and delivers poison into the child’s bloodstream. Parenting is a selfless act, and the first step in being a self-sacrificing mother is to toss out cigarettes for 40 weeks.

Only proper health care and education will end this horrible cycle.

— (Bedford) Times-Mail

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