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Infant deaths drop for the third straight year in Ohio, but racial disparity continues

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Posted at 4:35 PM, Dec 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 16:35:56-05

CLEVELAND — The number of infants who died before their first birthday in Ohio has dropped for the third straight year. In 2019, there were 929 infant deaths, according to a new report from the Ohio Department of Health.

There were 356 Black infant deaths in 2019, which is an increase of 17 from 2018. The number is still lower than 2015, 2016, and 2017. Yet the racial disparity gap continues to widen, with Black infants 2.8 times more likely to die than white infants.

The number of white infants who died in 2019 was 518, the lowest number in the past 10 years.

According to ODH, Ohio's infant mortality rate across all races is 6.9 per 1,000 live births. For Black infants in the state, that number increases to 14.3

“Since my first full day in office, when we created the Home Visiting Advisory Committee, we have been working to reduce infant mortality and the racial disparities that exist. The situation is unacceptable. Race and zip code should never dictate your health outcomes,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said on Thursday. “With the help of the legislature, we have invested new resources into proven programs, such as evidence-based home visiting programs, group prenatal programs, community navigators, and other programs designed to address infant mortality and racial disparities. Since the report only goes through 2019, it does not show the full impact of these investments since funding began in late 2019. Yet, there is no doubt we must do more.”

DeWine announced that he is establishing an Eliminating Racial Disparities in Infant Mortality Task Force to help address racial disparities in infant mortality.

The goal of the task force is to develop a statewide shared vision and strategy for reducing infant mortality rates and eliminating racial disparities by 2030.

DeWine said the task force will create actionable recommendations for interventions, performance and quality improvement, data collection, and policies to advise the Governor’s Office of Children’s Initiatives on improving Ohio’s investments and strategies in addressing racial inequities in birth outcomes.

The task force will focus on the following counties with the highest numbers of Black birth and infant deaths:

  • Allen County
  • Lorain County
  • Butler County
  • Cuyahoga County
  • Franklin County
  • Hamilton County
  • Lucas County
  • Mahoning County
  • Montgomery County
  • Stark County
  • Summit County

“Ohio set the goal of reducing the number of infant deaths to 6.0 infant deaths per 1,000 live births for all babies nearly a decade ago. We have yet to even come close to achieving equity for our mothers, babies, and families of color,” said ODH Director Stephanie McCloud. “Black infants die at a rate nearly three times that of white infants. That disparity is amplified as we continue to see success in decreasing the white infant mortality rate, without seeing any significant change in the Black infant mortality rate. Things must change now in order to achieve our goal of eliminating racial disparities in infant mortality by 2030.”

The leading causes of infant deaths in Ohio in 2019 were:

  • Prematurity-related conditions including preterm birth, respiratory distress, and low birth weight
  • Congenital anomalies
  • External injury
  • Sudden infant death syndrome

To read the full report, click here.