MERRILLVILLE, Ind. – Franciscan Health’s Prenatal Assistance Program this month hosted an evening with Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Lindsay Weaver, MD, and Franciscan medical staff focused on maternal/fetal health.

During the event at Innsbrook Country Club in Merrillville, Weaver said Indiana’s infant mortality rate is 6.7 deaths per 1,000 live births, which is higher than the national average of 5.4. Weaver acknowledged Indiana’s data on infant mortality is sobering, but said her goal is to use comprehensive data at the county and state level to identify where help is needed most.

“You can’t make a difference unless you know where you’re coming from,” Weaver said.

The top cause of death for Indiana infants is perinatal risks or conditions that originate during pregnancy, the birth process or soon after birth, Weaver said, and 79.3% of pregnancy-associated deaths in Indiana are deemed preventable. The data shows non-Hispanic Black women and children are at the greatest risk.

“Both infant and maternal health are complicated by a variety of social and clinical factors leading to clear disparities,” Weaver said. “There’s no silver bullet here. It takes a lot of community resources coming together to make a difference.”

Franciscan Health’s Prenatal Assistance Program serves expectant women and parenting families with children younger than age 1. The program has served more than 3,000 women to date in 2023.

(l-r) Anil Chawla, MD, chief medical officer for Franciscan Health Michigan City; Carlos Vasquez, COO and vice president of Franciscan Health Rensselaer; Lindsay Weaver, MD, Indiana Department of Health commissioner and Daniel McCormick, MD, Franciscan Health Crown Point president and CEO, gathered Oct. 4 for a discussion about maternal/fetal health in Indiana.

Services include the operation of four diaper pantries in Crown Point, Hammond, Michigan City and Rensselaer. The program is in the process of implementing a paramedicine program in LaPorte, Jasper and Newton counties called Project Swaddle aimed at improving maternal and infant health outcomes in partnership with paramedics and EMTs.

“Working together, I know we can reduce the burden of infant mortality in the communities we are blessed to serve,” Franciscan Health Prenatal Assistance Program Director Tristan Kirby said.

Franciscan Health Crown Point President and CEO Daniel McCormick, MD, said Franciscan Health is committed to addressing all aspects of infant and maternal mortality.

“Together with our Prenatal Assistance Program and strategic partnerships, Franciscan Health continues to serve the women of Northwest Indiana in our Franciscan tradition,” McCormick said.

Information on Prenatal Assistance Program services for those in need is available by calling 1-877-PRE-NATL. Donations to the Prenatal Assistance Program can be made online through the Franciscan Health Foundation’s website or by calling (219) 661-3401.