He recognizes that it’s not the only factor to consider.
Recent increases in multiple births have strongly influenced the rates, according to the Kids Count report. Poor nutrition, poverty, stress, infections and violence can increase the risk of a baby being born with a low birth weight, too, the report stated.
Stanczykiewicz said smoking during pregnancy is the single largest contributing factor.
At least one area county bucked that trend.
In Miami County, the number of women who reported smoking during pregnancy increased by nearly 6 percent. More than 28 percent of pregnant women there admitted smoking. The number of babies with low birth weights, though, fell by 38 percent to 6.9 percent.
Howard County numbers are more along the lines of what Stanczykiewicz would expect.
More than 24 percent of Howard County mothers reported smoking during pregnancy in 2010, a 4 percent decrease. With that, the number of infants with low birth weights fell slightly to 6.8 percent.
The number of teen deaths and number of kids abusing drugs and alcohol statewide fell in 2010, too, giving Indiana its improved health ranking, Stanczykiewicz said.
Childhood poverty rates remain a concern nationwide, though.
Even as unemployment rates gradually fell following the recession, poverty rates in most areas continued to climb. Indiana’s rate went from 17 percent in 2005 to 23 percent in 2011.
Numbers for both Howard and Miami counties have held steady for the past three years — varying by only a percentage point in either direction. In 2011, 22.7 percent of Miami County children lived in poverty. In Howard County that number was 24.8 percent.
Those numbers are to be expected, Stanczykiewicz said.
“We keep hearing that the job market is better, but poverty is always the last indicator to move,” he said. “Our low-income neighbors are often the last to find employment.”
It doesn’t help that the number of single parent households is on the rise.