Indiana is above average, but not by a measure of which anyone should be proud: infant mortality.

“Infant mortality is the number of babies who die during the first year of life per 1,000 live births,” says a report by the Indiana State Department of Health. “Infant death is a critical indicator of the health of a population. It reflects the overall state of maternal health as well as the quality and accessibility of primary health care available to pregnant women and infants. The top three causes of infant deaths … are disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight, congenital anomalies and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.”

Indiana is far above the national average and has been for quite some time.

In 2005, in the United States as a whole, the infant death rate was 6.9 per 1,000 births. By 2011, that figure had fallen to 6.1. Indiana also has seen a drop, albeit a much slower one. In 2005, the state’s rate was 8.0. By 2011, it had only fallen to 7.7. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared we had the country’s fifth-highest infant mortality rate in 2010.

Monday, The Indianapolis Star reported that in 2017 the state saw the single largest decrease in the infant death rate in six years. Today, that number is 7.3 per 1,000 births. The national mortality rate among infants was 5.8 per 1,000 in 2017.

According the CDC, Indiana’s improvement on this public-health issue now makes us sixth-highest in the country.

In an effort to curb this embarrassment to our state, then-Gov. Mike Pence signed House Bill 1004 on May 4, 2015.

Health officials began a new state program known as Safety PIN – for Protecting Indiana’s Newborns. It funded grants to support local programs where women could receive prenatal care and other help associated with expectant mothers.

Any movement to tackle this problem should be commended, as we did five years ago. But let this not be the only step we take. We owe it to ourselves and our children to get this one right. We can’t afford not to.

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