The death of an infant is always a tragedy, especially in the 21st century, with modern medicine widely available. Hoosiers should be appalled to know Indiana's mortality rate is among the worst in the nation.
And Lake County is even worse than the state average. Across Indiana, for every 1,000 live births, 7.7 children will die within the first year.
In Lake County, that rate is 8.4 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to provisional data for 2011. Breaking it down further, the rate is 7.9 for non-Hispanics, 10.6 for Hispanics, 7.7 for whites, 10.5 for blacks.
Want a more compelling figure? Out of 6,182 babies born in Lake County in 2011, 52 of them died.
In Porter County, there are so few infant deaths the rate isn't even calculated.
Speaking in East Chicago last week, Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. William VanNess II expressed his deep concern about the state's poor showing on this measure.
"Indiana is horrible at infant mortality. Horrible. We are 47th out of 50 states," VanNess told local health care workers and legislators.
"(By) 2020, I want to be the best in the nation," VanNess said.
So the Indiana State Department of Health is making a big push to lower the infant mortality rate in Indiana. That involves not just the process of childbirth but also addressing prenatal health and guidance for new parents.
This cannot be left for health officials alone to try to accomplish. Protecting those infants is the job of the entire community.
Proper nutrition and abstaining from tobacco, alcohol and other harmful drugs during pregnancy are essential.
Yet 2010 data show 17.1 percent of pregnant Hoosiers smoked during pregnancy, compared with 9.2 percent nationally. Clearly, there needs to be a public education component to this campaign for health infants.
Concern about low birthweights also goes back to prenatal care. Pregnant women must eat properly if they want their children to be healthy. Skipped or inadequate meals harm more than just the mothers.
"It's all about education and educating people," state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary.
Indiana's rating on overall health is 41st nationally, VanNess said, so there's plenty of room for improvement by everyone.
But protecting infants is the right place to start.
It's up to religious institutions, schools, businesses, nonprofits and families to help health care professionals educate women who either are pregnant or might become pregnant.