Program targets healthier outcomes for babies, mothers


A new Indiana health initiative will create a network of services and support that wraps arms around mothers and babies in some of the state’s highest risk areas.

The state’s OB Navigator program will launch in 20 Indiana counties — including Dubois County — beginning in January 2020. The program’s goal is to identify women early in their pregnancies and connect them with a home visitor — who is a medical professional — who provides personalized guidance and support to the women during pregnancy and through at least the first six to 12 months after birth.

The collaborative initiative is a concentrated effort between the Indiana State Department of Health, the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration and the Indiana Department of Child Services. It began as House Bill 1007 and was passed into law in May.

“The governor was wanting to address infant mortality and really charge them to look at some places where we can make an impact on reducing the infant mortality rate in the state,” said State Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper. “That bill was a long-term product put together to try to address ways to combat infant mortality in the best ways that could possibly be done.”

The program will first roll out to Indiana counties that include the zip codes where babies have the highest risk of dying before their first birthdays and where there is a greater prevalence of especially high-risk factors that negatively impact an infant’s health. When it launches, the OB Navigator initiative will work to connect pregnant women who are covered by Medicaid in those high-risk areas to services in their communities.

Messmer explained that Indiana has “one of the higher infant mortality rates in the country.” Those with low incomes and living in poverty are statistically at higher risk, he said.

“We definitely want to try to target healthier outcomes for babies and mothers,” Messmer said. “House Bill 1007 was derived from looking at how to tackle that.”

According to the Indiana State Department of Health website, a community engagement event will take place in Dubois County on Friday, Nov. 1. The meeting will involve “all stakeholders, including hospitals, home visiting programs and the public,” according to the website.

The event will include a discussion of infant mortality in Indiana, program details and a question-and-answer session.

“Folks that are interested in it should definitely look into it,” Messmer said. “And if there’s help and programs that they could be guided to through this OB Navigator program, I’d highly encourage people to take part in it.”

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