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(INDIANAPOLIS) – Indiana’s infant mortality numbers for 2020 are more or less unchanged from the year before.

522 Indiana babies didn’t reach their first birthday last year. That’s five fewer deaths than 2019, and a 16% drop in four years. But because births were down too, the mortality rate, of 66 per 10,000, went up for the first time in four years. Indiana’s mortality rate the year before was the lowest ever — the increase translates to one more death for every 10,000 babies.

The death rate was twice as high among African-Americans — the gap is the widest it’s been in three years. State health commissioner Kris Box says if the rate were the same as among other ethnic groups, 80 more deaths would have been prevented.

Box says Indiana needs to find better ways to spread the word in the Black community about the importance of putting babies to sleep on their backs. Sudden infant death, the cause of one in five deaths, is closely linked to sleep practices, and Box says those cases remain higher among African-Americans.

But Box says the biggest factor in infant mortality remains low birth weight, causing more than one in four of Indiana’s deaths — and one of the leading causes of that is mothers who smoke.

National infant mortality numbers for 2020 aren’t available yet, but Indiana has persistently been worse than the national average. Governor Holcomb has set a goal of making Indiana’s death rate the lowest in the Midwest.