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Saving the 15

A celebration was organized on August 4th, to honor the work and impact of the Perinatal Navigation team serving the Wabash Valley. Hundreds of families, throughout the region, have relied on a Navigator and a Community Health Worker, throughout their pregnancies and first stages of their baby’s life.

The Union Health Perinatal Navigation Program (PNP) and West Central Indiana Healthy Start (WCIHS) are “critical to eliminating disparities in our region” according to Mr. Steven Holman, President and CEO of Union Health. “Thanks to the dedication of these professionals over the past several years, 15 babies are alive today.”

Union Health, UH PNP, WCIHS, and Lugar Center Staff

UHPNP was first developed in 2016, by the Richard G. Lugar Center for Rural Health, to help tackle the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in our region. IMR is defined at the rate of infant death per 1,000 live births. At the time, the Central Southwestern Region, defined as Vigo and its surrounding counties, had the highest rate in the State (9.7). It is worth noting that Indiana also had one of the worst rates in the nation. The vision for the program has always been “All Babies Deserve A Chance.” Navigators meet with enrolled families wherever most convenient for them, be it clinical settings as well as their homes, serve as resources to connect to services they need to ensure healthy pregnancies and starts to babies’ lives. Both PNP and WCIHS are free programs through which enrolled families can earn incentives such as car seats, diapers, etc.

As part of this celebration, Sarah Fagg, RN, and Shane Wilson-White, RN, were each presented with the Perinatal Navigation Pioneer Award, in recognition for their “dedication, commitment, enthusiasm, and creativity they’ve each displayed in improving the lives of their patients and community.” They’ve played a key role in the IMR reduction which now stands at 4.6.

“I love being a Perinatal Navigator because I have seen the effects of unsupported families as they maneuver through parenthood. The most rewarding part of my role is when I can change the trajectory of future generations by helping just one mother. If they can see a different path and are supported by us to take that path, we have done our job” said Shane who along with Sarah have been instrumental in the development of the program as it was the first of its kind in our region. They’ve both served and sat in the living rooms of hundreds of families to help young mothers and their babies gain a better and healthier start to life.

Work still remains as too many babies in our region are dying due to lack of safe sleep conditions. We will continue to strive to educate and provide resources and services to families so that families can care for their babies safely and hopefully never have to live through such a tragic loss.

The Union Health Perinatal Navigation Program was developed, four years ago, in collaboration with the Indiana State Department of Health and was designed to give infants in the Wabash Valley the best chance to reach their first of many birthday through integration of navigators in all the obstetrical practices in the region. This free home visiting program actively serves patients living in 11 counties.

Launched in 2019, West Central Indiana Healthy Start ( is a free community based home visiting program that can help you and your family navigate prenatal/post-partum care, enroll in community assistance program, and become your baby’s first and most important teacher. Our goal is to give your baby and family the healthiest start at life by providing education and care coordination through pregnancy and up to 18 months of your child’s life.

“We are so proud of their work as they continue to provide haven, support, and reassurance to the moms, dads, and babies, in our community” conclude Hicham Rahmouni, Executive Director of Union Health’s Richard G. Lugar Center for Rural Health. The Lugar Center’s mission is to advance rural health through education, innovation, and collaboration. These three tenets are perfectly illustrated in these programs.

Left to Right: Steve Holman, Shane Wilson-White, Sarah Fagg, Hicham Rahmouni

Click here for more information about the Lugar Center's efforts to reduce infant mortality.


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