Donation goes toward helping improve infant mortality rates in Fort Wayne

Indiana ranks 41st in incidents of infant mortality nationally. Allen County comes in as one of the highest places for this to happen in the state. With additional funding, a partnership with Riley's Children’s Foundation is hoping to help babies survive.

Posted: Aug 13, 2019 7:34 PM
Updated: Aug 14, 2019 8:37 AM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) - The Be The Hope Now Campaign helping parents in Indianapolis is making its way to Fort Wayne.

"We're really excited to be launching this in Fort Wayne. They've had great success in Indianapolis in helping childcare centers provide safe sleep environments for their babies as a way of tackling infant mortality in the community," Paige Wilkins executive director for Healthier Moms and Babies said.

Allen County's infant mortality rate is 7.3 deaths per 1,000 births which is 25% higher than the national average of 5.8.
Philanthropists Larry Lee, Richard D Waterfield, and others donated $400,000 dollars for educational programs to help new parents learn about preventable deaths.

"We have been focusing on those sids rates, specifically safe sleep, because that is one of those most preventable forms. We do see a lot of families reporting unsafe sleep practices such as bed sharing or simply not knowing to put the baby down on his or her back having them alone in the crib with nothing around," Whitney Wynns with the Infant Mortality Child Care Project in Indianapolis said.

Places most affected by this tend to be high poverty areas and food deserts.

"Within the 46806 and 46805 zip codes, we'll be working with a lot of at home daycares and child care providers who are trying to work on their paths to quality, but are maybe at a lower level and can't afford the necessary items they need," Wilkins explained.

"The black infant mortality rate is actually 2 to 3 times higher in the overall state of Indiana and specifically in Marion County and here in Fort Wayne," Wynns added.

Knowing that, donor Larry Lee wanted to help.

"The tragedy of any soul not being able to see it's first birthday is something that touches me. It's a problem that is preventable and the issue in mortality in my own home town, it's small enough in terms of the financial resources needed to combat it, I felt I could make a difference," Lee said.

They are hoping to work with child care centers by the end of this year.

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