INDIANAPOLIS — The infant mortality rate among Black babies in Marion County was the lowest ever in 2019, according to the Marion County Public Health Department.
The Black infant mortality rate in Marion County for 2019 was 10.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, a significant drop from 14.0 in 2018. In 1984, Marion County’s Black infant mortality rate reached 24.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. At that time, Indianapolis ranked the highest among the 22 major U.S. cities with populations over 500,000.
The overall infant mortality rate in Marion County was 8.8 deaths per 1,000 live births compared to 9.2 in 2018.
The infant mortality rate among Hispanics in Marion County for 2019 was 7.6 per 1,000 live births, and the rate for whites was 7.5.
Indiana's infant mortality rate fell from 6.8 per 1,000 live births in 2018 to 6.5 in 2019, according to preliminary data from the Indiana Department of Health. The mortality rate among Black infants fell from 13 per 1,000 live births in 2018 to 11 in 2019. A total of 527 Indiana babies died before their first birthdays in 2019, down from 559 in 2018 and 602 in 2017.
The top causes of infant mortality are low birth weight, premature birth, and birth defects. Common factors for that include: maternal smoking, lack of adequate prenatal care, lack of folic acid, and alcohol use.
Data for Marion County shows Hispanics initiate breastfeeding at a higher rate (87 percent) compared to white mothers (81 percent) and Black mothers (75 percent). Maternal smoking was highest among white women (13 percent) compared to Black women (8 percent) and Hispanic women (2 percent). The percentage of mothers who began prenatal care in the first trimester is 75 percent for white women, 53 percent for Black women, and 44 percent for Hispanic women.
“We have made some substantial gains in reducing the infant mortality rates, but have to continue to address the new challenges generated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Virginia A. Caine, M.D., director and chief medical officer of the Marion County Public Health Department. “Pregnant women now face a variety of challenges with food insecurity, nutrition, housing evictions, environmental stresses and other barriers. We must provide assistance to our pregnant mothers on how to navigate newly formed resources.”
The Indianapolis Healthy Start program provides education, referral and support services to pregnant women and their families. For more information on the services it can provide you, click here. Expectant women and new mothers can also call the MOMS Helpline at 1-844-MCH-MOMS (1-844-624-6667) to find resources available in their area.