Assessment: Vanderburgh Co. infant mortality rate rising

3 infant deaths already in 2019 due to unsafe sleep
Vanderburgh Co. infant mortality rate rising
Updated: Jun. 20, 2019 at 5:47 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - The infant mortality rate in Vanderburgh County is on the rise.

Already this year, we are told three infants have died from unsafe sleep practices.

A number like that has the Health Department saying there is still a lot of work to do. The numbers coming from newly released Vanderburgh County's Community Health Needs Assessment.

It shows the county’s infant death rate is nearly double the Healthy People Target. Now, we are asking why and what can we do?

“These deaths are preventable,” says Jennifer Healy, Vanderburgh County Health Department.

Unsafe sleep is among the top reasons why babies die. Vanderburgh County typically averages two to three deaths of this nature each year.

Halfway through 2019, we have already hit that number.

One of the three infant deaths was tied to the Rock 'N Play Baby Sleeper, which was recalled by Fisher-Price in April citing fatalities.

“People are tending to leave their children in there to sleep," says Vanderburgh County Coroner Steve Lockyear. "The angle is a bit higher than normal, so the child tends to slide down, become compressed, maybe even turns over and asphyxiates.”

Almost all unsafe sleep deaths involve a parent under the influence of drugs or alcohol, marijuana being the most common.

“So they are incapacitated, and they are not aware that they’ve rolled over, or they’re leaning, or the child’s in danger in any way, and the sad thing about that is the child dies and these are horrific scenes where there’s such tragedy within there, and you don’t ever want to experience that,” says Lockyear.

The Health Department teaches parents the ABC’s of safe sleep.

“A stands for alone," explains Healy. "Babies need to be alone in a crib. That means no blankets, no toys, nothing like that.”

That’s a far cry from those fully decorated crib advertisements.

“B they always need to be on their back, never on their stomach or on their side," says Healy. "They need to be put down on their backs for naps and bed time. C is a crib, so they need to always be placed in a crib.”

The Health Department offers two safe sleep classes a month. They even just hired a Spanish-speaking educator.

To schedule a class, call 812-435-5385.

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