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HFL Hosts First Infant Safe Sleep Kick-Off Event

Updated: Jul 6, 2023

In 2019, Healthcare Foundation of La Porte (HFL) established Partners for Healthier Babies Council (PHB), a collaboration between medical providers, public health agencies, nonprofit organizations, parents, and community members. The PHB Council is designed to address the social, behavioral, and health risk factors that contribute to infant mortality, preterm birth, lack of prenatal care, and low birthweight to make a positive impact on birth outcomes in La Porte County.

“Children’s health is inseparable from Healthcare Foundation of La Porte’s (HFL) mission of empowering our residents to live healthy and well. The lifelong benefits of prenatal, infant, and child wellness have led us to identify Healthy Children as an HFL Strategic Focus Area. HFL Board of Directors and staff are delighted and humbled to have so many experienced and caring Council members, representing so many La Porte organizations around the table, to create a plan to address issues related to infant mortality and low birth weight,” states Maria Fruth, HFL President & CEO.

For the past three years, PHB has been hard at work making connections with the appropriate organizations throughout the county and state, gathering and assessing data, and disseminating resource information. Progress has been made in many areas – the rates of preterm births, low birth weight, and smoking have all decreased since 2017. Unfortunately, La Porte County’s infant mortality rate has increased. As of 2020, La Porte County Infant Mortality Rate was 11, meaning that for 1,000 live births, on average 11 babies die before reaching their first birthday.

Dr. Gary Wheeland standing at HFL's podium speaking on La Porte County statistics
Dr. Gary Wheeland sharing La Porte County statistics.

Dr. Gary Wheeland, HFL Board Member and Board Liaison with Healthier Babies, “La Porte County’s infant mortality rate is 51% higher than the national average and 42% higher than the state of Indiana. In fact, our county rate is the 5th highest in the state, according to Y2016-2020 data.” Interventions and efforts to reduce this rate are driven by the Healthy People 2030 Target = 5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. (Healthy People 2030 focuses on keeping infants safe and healthy through the first year of life.)

With these stark numbers in front of them, the PHB Council intensified their efforts. Spearheaded by the Council, and with financial support from HFL, La Porte County Health Department formed a Fetal Infant Mortality Review (FIMR) Team, making us the 37th county in the state of Indiana to have one. FIMR is a community based, action-oriented process aimed at improving systems, services, and resources for women, infants, and families.

Additionally, noting Healthy People 2030’s guidance that community-based interventions that encourage safe sleep practices can help keep infants safe, and in advance of October’s Safe to Sleep Month, the PHB Council is teaming up with local healthcare providers, the Indiana State Health Department, agencies, businesses, and government offices to raise awareness about preventing infant deaths with a Safe Sleep Kick-Off Event. Getting safe sleep messages to parents and caregivers throughout our county takes the concerted effort of many organizations and individuals who share an interest in promoting infant health. HFL’s Partners for Healthier Babies Council is dedicated to raising awareness about proven ways to reduce the risk of sleep-related infant deaths due to accidental suffocation, entrapment, or strangulation. These deaths are PREVENTABLE.

The Kick-Off Event took place Thursday, September 29, 2022, at HFL’s Conference & Learning Center (C&LC) at 8 a.m. This free event brought more than 50 local and state community members together to share consistent messaging on the importance of safe sleep for infants.

photo from behind seated guests at HFL's C&LC
HFL's Conference & Learning Center filled with attendants at the Kick-Off Event.

Speakers discussed La Porte County’s statistics against those of the state and the nation, the difference between SUID and SIDS, shared important safe sleep messages, and connected parents and caregivers in the county with resources like free sleep sacks, books, cribs, and more. The first Diapering Together To Raise Awareness Challenge was introduced as well. A short video from Dr. Kristina Box, FACOG, Indiana State Health Commissioner, was also shared at the Kick-Off as a congratulations to HFL and Partners for Healthier Babies for their efforts to bring solutions to La Porte County. As Dr. Box stated, “Reducing infant mortality continues to be a priority for the state of Indiana.”

Important Safe Sleep Messages

ABCs of Safe Sleep

ALONE (no co-sleeping and no toys, blankets, pillows, etc.)

BACK (always place baby to sleep on his back)

CRIB (always place baby to sleep in a safe crib or bassinet, not a couch, futon, swing, etc.)

*Newly added: D for DRUG FREE ENVIRONMENT (which includes cigarettes, vapes,

marijuana, and alcohol)

Safe Sleep Tips to Reduce Baby’s Risk

Place baby on back to sleep for naps and at night

Use a firm, flat, level sleep surface covered only with a fitted sheet

Share room (NOT BED) with baby, for at least first six months

Keep baby’s sleep area free of blankets, pillows, toys, etc.

Avoid letting baby get too hot, and keep baby’s head and face uncovered during


Keep baby's surroundings smoke- and vape-free

Encourage “tummy time” while baby is awake and being closely watched

table with HFL tablecloth, covered with safe sleep resources like handouts, bookmarks, and books
Some of the safe sleep resources on display at the event.

Additional Resources:

Safe Infant Sleep for Grandparents and Other Trusted Caregivers

HFL’s mission is empowering La Porte County residents to live healthy and well. Since 2017, HFL has invested over $34 million in the La Porte County community. To learn more about HFL and community impact, please visit the Foundation’s website at

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