RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - State leaders say infant mortality is an epidemic that has to be addressed.
And with the rate in Virginia now at 6.7 percent, those leaders say Virginia is finally moving in the right direction.
Governor Tim Kaine and the state health commissioner Karen Remley held a joint press conference on infant mortality today and the news is good.
"In one year from 07 to 08 ...lowest it's ever been in history," said Governor Kaine.
Infant mortality is defined by the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births and is an indication of the quality and accessibility of prenatal care for pregnant women.
Earlier this year, Governor Kaine set a target of reducing the state's infant mortality rate to below 7 percent by next year.
That means no more than seven out of every one thousand babies born in Virginia would die before their first birthday.
In 2007, Virginia's mortality rate stood at 7.7 percent -- infant mortality is especially pronounced in the African-American community, which has a rate twice the state average.
Contributing factors include biology, access to health care, and socio-economic issues like poverty and public housing.
In November, Virginia's health commissioner created a working group to develop strategies to reach the governor's goal. One of those efforts was a saving baby initiative.
And while there's still a long way to go, Governor Kaine is hopeful the Commonwealth can continue to lower this number.
He hopes that the smoking ban that takes affect later this year will help with that as it can only be positive to have expectant mothers and babies exposed to less secondhand smoke.
On a broader spectrum, the infant mortality rate is a critical indicator in the overall health and welfare of our nation, and with these new numbers, Governor Kaine and other state leaders know that Virginia is on its way to having a positive effect on that effort.