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Racial disparity in infant deaths continue to rise in Northeast Ohio

Officials say we need action not research
Posted at 10:41 PM, Dec 18, 2020
and last updated 2021-08-17 14:47:54-04

CLEVELAND — The infant mortality rate for Black babies in Ohio can instill fear in hopeful mothers. Some of them find relief when they discover Birthing Beautiful Communities.

In the words of one hopeful mother to-be: “I was almost crying, I was so relieved. They were just a blessing, a godsend, that came to really help and protect our communities."

Birthing Beautiful Communities is a perinatal support group for black women providing education regarding breastfeeding, stress relief, healthy eating, labor support, postpartum health and more.

Christin Farmer is the founder and CEO.

“We are with them until the baby is at least a year old,” she said.

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 according to the Ohio Department of Health’s latest report.

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

But Farmer said a task force isn’t what’s needed. She said, first, systemic racism needs to be addressed.

“It creates this environment to where Black Americans are unable to thrive, but the babies are hit the worst,” said Farmer.

She said from addressing mass incarceration of Black men, to creating more job opportunities, to building Black infrastructure, it’s a trickle down effect.

“One of the issues of Black women not going into the hospital system is because they feel like they’re not heard,” she said.

And she’s working to be the change in Northeast Ohio. She said they’re doing the groundwork to build a stand-alone birthing center for Black women.

“Where a woman doesn’t even have to worry about that, because that’s very stressful to come into an environment where you are already feeling like you will be discriminated against,” she said.