Thrive by IU Health

April 22, 2021

Starting at birth: addressing racial inequity in healthcare through Cradle Indianapolis.

Starting at birth: addressing racial inequity in healthcare through Cradle Indianapolis.

According to the Indiana Department of Health, Indiana’s average infant mortality rate in 2019 was 6.5 deaths per 1,000 live births. The rate for Black families: 13 deaths per 1,000 live births. A similarly disturbing disparity exists in the maternal mortality rate at childbirth: For every 100,000 live births, 41.4 white women in Indiana will lose their lives compared to 53.4 Black women.

“It’s not a matter of money, education or socioeconomic status,” says Lauren Dungy-Poythress, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, with more than 28 years of experience.

“I’m very educated and understand all of the factors contributing to these statistics, but my two daughters and I are still more at risk if we don’t address some of the stresses that black women face on a daily basis from institutionalized racism.”

Racial Equity in Healthcare Fund

Born from the idea of a valued donor to address health inequities among Hoosiers and advance equitable care for all, the Racial Equity in Healthcare Fund is a response not only to the demands for racial justice that sprang up in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, but also to the ongoing imbalance in healthcare treatment and outcomes.

The Racial Equity in Healthcare Fund will support IU Health initiatives ranging from recruiting more people of color into leadership positions to increasing diversity and inclusion training. A substantial portion of the fund will be invested in Cradle Indianapolis, a new initiative designed to lower Indiana’s infant mortality rates.

The program will be modeled after Cradle Cincinnati, a successful collaboration among parents, caregivers, healthcare professionals and community members which reduced infant mortality by 20 percent in less than 10 years.

“I’m thrilled to be involved with Cradle Indianapolis,” Dr. Dungy-Poythress says. “I’m so pleased that the team is recognizing the need to look outside the immediate healthcare system to affect the issues that women of color face in this society. With the team we have in place working toward the same goal, I have no reason to think we couldn’t duplicate the success of Cradle Cincinnati here."

Real Change Needs Champions

In Indianapolis, one of those champions is John Thompson. When John, owner of four area businesses, heard about the opportunity to support the Racial Equity in Healthcare Fund, he pledged to give $5,000 every year for the next five years. He’s thrilled the investment in Cradle Indianapolis “will help ensure more infants reach their first birthday and beyond, as is the goal of many organizations and our governor,” John says. “Cradle Indianapolis and other programs should accelerate progress in a meaningful way.”

Once a recipient of this kind of generosity, John knows that giving has a ripple effect. He’s hopeful local community members, and, in particular, the Black community, will join him to support IU Health Foundation as we work to make real change.

“Every life is valuable — and every baby is important,” Dr. Dungy-Poythress says.

To support IU Health Foundation's Racial Equity in Healthcare Fund, click here.