Up seven spots from the last time the same report was issued, New Jersey ranks 12th among the states for the health of women, infants and children.

The 2018 report from United Health Foundation, which looked at 62 health indicators, found encouraging declines in tobacco use nationwide, but concerning increases in key mortality rates.

Maternal mortality continues to be a challenge in the Garden State, the report finds. Since 2016, New Jersey saw an increase of 2 percent from 37.3 to 38.1 deaths per 100,000 live births.

The state is well aware of the issue. It features one of the longest-running maternal mortality review teams in the nation. New Jersey is also the first state to designate a day focused on maternal health, which was honored in January.

On the flip side, New Jersey boasts the fourth-best infant mortality rate at 4.5 per 1,000 live births.

The state also receives solid marks for its high-school graduate rate (90.1 percent) and the percentage of women (75.3) seeking and getting preventive care services.

New Jersey ranks No. 1 in the nation for dental visits among women aged 18 to 44, and only two states have a lower smoking rate among that age group.

"Clearly, New Jersey is doing a lot of things right," said Dr. Deneen Vojta with UnitedHealth Group.

Since the 2016 edition, the percentage of New Jersey infants exclusively breastfed for six months increased from 16.7 percent to 24.8, according to the report. That percentage ranks 27th among the states.

More than 11 percent of women aged 18 to 44 are uninsured; that rate is worse than most states.

Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and Minnesota deliver the highest overall scores for the health of women and their offspring. Mississippi ranks last.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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