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(INDIANAPOLIS) – Indiana’s health commissioner says a drop in the infant death rate shows the state’s efforts to address it are paying off. 

Indiana lost 7{5ad3c25f5d8a6462a9daae157324f98d5b0edc4be0c0ed5ad8ca367936c1d337} fewer babies before their first birthday in 2018. The improvement is the second in a row, and the biggest in six years. 

Commissioner Kristina Box says the improvement reflects years of state-funded efforts to create local health partnerships across the state. Those partnerships now form the backbone of the newest initiative, a navigator program focusing on making sure pregnant women in the state’s 13 highest-risk neighborhoods receive proper prenatal care. The first of those navigator programs began in Fort Wayne this week.

Box says efforts focusing specifically on minorities paid off, with the mortality rate among Hispanics improving to almost on par with the rate among whites. The rate among African-Americans remains double the rate for other Hoosiers, but improved by 16{5ad3c25f5d8a6462a9daae157324f98d5b0edc4be0c0ed5ad8ca367936c1d337} to fuel the overall drop. 

Indiana’s infant mortality rate is still significantly worse than the national average, much less Governor Holcomb’s announced goal of catching Minnesota for best in the Midwest in four years. 

The Centers for Disease Control won’t release 50-state data for a few more months. In 2017, Indiana’s mortality rate was the seventh-worst in the nation. 

(Photo: China Photos/Getty Images)