Far too many Tarrant County babies — including 1,175 between 2008 and 2010 — die before their first birthday.The infant mortality rate here, 7.6 deaths for each 1,000 live births, is the highest in Texas among counties of similar size.Almost half of these babies (48 percent) are born to mothers who receive prenatal care late or not at all. Many low-income pregnant mothers have their first encounter with a healthcare provider when they arrive at an emergency room with some kind of complication.These are not new problems in Tarrant County. They have been recognized for several years, but the infant mortality rate remains highThis week, the JPS Health Network, Tarrant County’s public healthcare system, announced an all-out effort to bring those terrible numbers down.Studies have shown that in 51 percent of the county’s fetal/infant death cases between 2008 and 2010, the mother suffered from significant medical problems before becoming pregnant.Family planning can help those mothers get healthy before they get pregnant, and that’s part of the JPS effort. JPS received a grant from the state that will provide $1 million a year for five years for services such as free cervical and breast cancer screenings, as well as free contraception to uninsured women. Other services also will be provided with grant funding.Organized groups of women at the same stage of pregnancy will attend doctor’s visits together to share questions and concerns.Labor coaches will help young mothers with emotional support and information. Qualified women will receive free prenatal dental care.JPS will help new moms attend postpartum doctor visits. Eighty percent of infant deaths occur in the baby’s first month.Healthy mothers and healthy babies cannot help but make for a healthier future for Tarrant County. JPS administrators, staff and volunteer workers are to be commended for putting together this new program. They have before them a difficult problem, but they have a clear plan and obvious resolve to make a difference.