Shortly after joining The Times, health writer Giles Bruce learned several of the top zip codes for infant mortality — a statewide problem — were in Northwest Indiana.

He wanted to examine this in a reporting project but gained the opportunity to broaden it in scope after receiving a 2016 National Fellowship from the University of Southern California’s Center for Health Journalism.

Last July, Bruce attended a five-day training program in Los Angeles on community health issues and the lifelong impact of childhood health experiences. When he returned he began work on this series of stories you’ll read starting today.

Indiana consistently ranks near the bottom of all states for infant deaths, and state and local health officials have been stymied for years on how to stem the problem.

“Ever since I started here I’ve been talking to people concerned about infant mortality in Indiana,” Bruce said last week.

Through the fellowship, Bruce traveled around the state to visit different cities and learn about programs in place to make a difference.

During the next two weeks, you’ll read about some of these efforts in Northwest Indiana, Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Daviess County and Muncie. This series, "Special Report: What’s killing Indiana’s infants," will continue for the next two Sundays and three Wednesdays.

Among the takeaways for Bruce is that infant mortality— caused by a mix of factors that include poverty, lack of public health funding, obesity, smoking and drug use — is a bigger issue that impacts us all.

“I have learned that our medical community is doing a great job, but we are lacking in social supports,” Bruce said. “Infant mortality is an indicator of the health of any given state or population.”

You’ll learn, through these reports, that state leaders have made infant mortality more of a priority in recent years.

The question is how effective programs will be over time. Bruce plans to follow these reports with updates.

These stories, published through Feb. 8, will be offered to other Indiana newspapers through the Hoosier State Press Association. It’s our hope readers throughout the state gain understanding and awareness of this issue through this comprehensive series.

Thanks for reading us. Please contact me with any questions about The Times or our many publications.

Bob Heisse is editor of The Times Media Co. He can be reached at (219) 933-3327 or bob.heisse@nwi.com.

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Bob is editor of The Times Media Co. He started in Northwest Indiana in April 2014 following stints as executive editor of The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill., and The Centre Daily Times in State College, Pa.