FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Governor Eric Holcomb said his administration will make a concerted effort to tackle the state’s infant mortality rate, which is among the highest in the United states. He used his state of the state address to put a spotlight on the problem. He said 623 babies died before their first birthday in 2016.

He set a goal of becoming the best state in the Midwest for infant mortality by 2024.

“Despite focused efforts, Indiana’s infant mortality rate is unacceptable,” Holcomb said.”We can and we will save more of them.”

Holcomb said in his address Tuesday night, that the infant mortality rate is a direct reflection of the overall health of Hoosiers. Paige Wilkin, Director of Healthier Moms and Babies, said Indiana has a higher obesity rate and a high rate of people smoking, which are two main factors that contribute to a poor birth outcome.

In the last year that state has invested millions to curb the rate of infant deaths. Holcomb plans to take it a step further.

“We will implement a levels of care program to assure that the highest risk babies are delivered at facilities to meet both the needs of the mother and the baby,” he said.

Parkview received $3.6 million to hire community health workers to reduce infant death. Healthier Moms and Babies received $1 million to launch a nurse family partnership.

“We have four nurses hired that are going out to Denver for training and we already have caseloads for them when they get back, said Wilkins.

Last year the organization helped nearly 300 women through pregnancy. Many of those at risk women reside on the southeast side of Fort Wayne, she said. The zip codes with the highest infant death rates are 46806 and 46805.

Phyliss Bragg, President of the Chi Eta Phi nursing sorority, said there are only a handful of prenatal clinics in that area. Many expectant mothers travel as far as Dupont for care. That could be difficult for some mothers to do.

“They’re not getting early prenatal care and also they didn’t have place for their babies to sleep,” said Bragg.

The group has made it their mission to educate moms in the community. Last year, they released of a series of informational videos. They believe education is key, but access to healthcare facilities is equally as important.

“People have got to have the care they need to have healthy babies,” said Denise Jordan, a member of Chi Eta Phi. “If they’re monitored properly, then we can have better baby outcomes.”