Introducing Footprints Fort Wayne

A new organization is working to make strides to ensure every baby gets to celebrate their first birthday. Footprints Fort Wayne, a joint effort of more than a dozen area entities, launched last week with a goal of lowering Allen County’s infant mortality rate, which consistently ranks higher than state and national rates.

The infant mortality rate, considered a key indicator of overall community health, is the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Allen County’s rate for 2017 was 7.3, well above the national rate of 5.8.

“Pregnant women and their infants are among the most vulnerable populations locally, and their health impacts the future of our whole community. Footprints Fort Wayne provides important resources to some of the most at-risk pregnant women, and we are honored to work alongside other organizations in promoting these community health services,” Meg Distler, executive director of the St. Joseph Community Foundation, said.

According to Footprints Fort Wayne’s first annual report, the primary cause of infant death in Allen County is premature birth. Unsafe sleep is also a contributing factor. More troubling is the racial disparity; African American families are more than twice as likely to experience the loss of a baby.

With that knowledge in mind, Footprints Fort Wayne’s three primary focus areas are encouraging safe sleep practices, promoting early and regular prenatal care, and eliminating the racial disparity associated with this issue.

“This is bigger than one person or organization. We all need to come together, be on the same page and deliver the same messages to the community. Because it doesn’t have to be this way. Parents, or really anyone who cares for infants, need to know there are simple things they can do to prevent infant mortality,” said Phyllis Bragg, president of the Fort Wayne chapter of Chi Eta Phi, a national organization of African American nurses. She stressed the importance of not smoking during pregnancy, providing education and support for breastfeeding, and teaching the ABCs of safe sleep – infants should always sleep Alone, on their Back and in a Crib.

Footprints Fort Wayne’s organizers started meeting in the fall of 2017, when they studied similar initiatives in other cities. Adopting the successful model of Cradle Cincinnati, a core team spent 2018 assessing data, collecting community input and deciding how they could make the biggest impact.

For more information about Footprints Fort Wayne, including data, resources and information on how you can get involved, visit Expectant mothers are encouraged to visit to connect with Fort Wayne resources, find a doctor, sign up for text updates throughout pregnancy and more.


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