Gov. Martin O’Malley holds Rushawn Pressley, 2-months-old, while visiting with advocates after a press conference Thursday in Baltimore. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Maryland’s infant mortality rate fell last year to its lowest recorded level, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) announced Thursday.

Officials attributed the decline — from 6.7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011 to 6.3 last year — largely to a dropoff in the mortality rate for black infants.

While the white infant mortality rate has remained stable in recent years, the rate for black infants fell substantially, from 12.0 per 1,000 live births in 2011 to 10.3 last year, according to data released by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

In Maryland, where black residents make up the largest share of the population of any state outside the Deep South, the racial disparity has been a challenging issue.

Last year, Maryland’s mortality rate for black infants was above the national average for black infants. The state’s rate for white infants — 4.0 per 1,000 live births — was almost a full percentage point below the national average for white infants.

National figures for 2012 were not available Thursday.

“We’ve worked aggressively to save the lives of our youngest and most vulnerable,” O’Malley said Thursday, adding: “There is still more work to be done.”