GARY | Local health leaders and community health care providers gathered Friday to discuss infant mortality, a top health concern in Indiana.
The School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Northwest sponsored the infant mortality conference.
Speakers included Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. William VanNess, Community HealthNet Executive Director Dr. Janet Seabrook and leaders from local health programs and clinics.
Indiana ranks 45th in the country in infant mortality, which is defined as babies who die before turning 1 year old, VanNess said.
In 2011, Indiana had 7.68 infant deaths per 1,000 births. The national number was 6.05 deaths per 1,000 births, VanNess said.
Risk factors contributing toward infant mortality include babies born earlier than 39 weeks, accidental suffocation deaths and babies born too small.
Seabrook spoke of the Community HealthNet effort to reduce local infant mortality rates, namely Centering Pregnancy.
The program brings together pregnant women for two-hour group meetings throughout their pregnancy, relying on peer-to-peer mentoring.
Funded by grant money through March of Dimes, women use the program to discuss concerns, from pregnancy to problems with their spouses.
Women in the program receive advice on several topics, such as self-esteem, baby care, parenting and contraception. Social workers and lactation consultants advise them as well, Seabrook said.