FORT WAYNE - A new initiative involving more than a dozen local organizations aims to lower the infant mortality rate in Allen County. The group Wednesday launched Footprints Fort Wayne after more than a year of research to determine how to make the greatest impact.

Allen County's infant mortality rate in 2017 was 7.3 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, which is above the national rate of 5.8. Footprints Fort Wayne says in its first annual report, the primary cause of infant death in Allen County is premature birth.

The group launched the initiative with three primary focus areas: encouraging safe sleep practices, promoting early and regular prenatal care, and eliminating the racial disparity associated with infant mortality. The report says African American families are more than twice as likely to experience the death of a baby.

"Pregnant women and their infants are among the most vulnerable populations locally, and their health impacts the future of our whole community," said Meg Distler, executive director of the St. Joseph Community Foundation. "Footprints Fort Wayne provides important resources to some of the most at-risk pregnant women, and we are honored to work alongside other organizations in promoting these community health services."

The partner organizations involved in Footprints Fort Wayne include A Mother’s Hope, Bowen Center, BrightPoint, Chi Eta Phi, Fort Wayne UNITED, Healthier Moms and Babies, HealthVisions Fort Wayne, Healthy Families, IUFW Lafayette St. Family Health Clinic, Lutheran Health Network, Parkview Health, McMillen Health, Neighborhood Health Clinic, St. Joseph Community Health Foundation and Wellspring.

You can learn more about Footprints Fort Wayne by clicking here.