COLUMBUS (WCMH) — For the second year in a row, the number of Ohio infants who died before their first birthdays has declined.
But a new report from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) also shows that disparities continue to persist with black infants dying at more than 2 1/2 times the rate of white infants.
According to the state’s annual infant mortality report, 938 infants died in 2018, down from 982 in 2017 and from 1024 in 2016.
The number of black infant deaths declined almost 12 percent from 2017 to 2018, the first year-to-year decline in five years.
The infant mortality rate, defined as the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births, fell to 6.9 in 2018 from 7.2 in 2017 for all races overall. The rate among black infants fell to 13.9 in 2018 from 15.6 in 2017.
The Ohio and national goal is 6.0 or fewer infant deaths per 1,000 live births across all racial and ethnic groups.
Reducing infant mortality has been a priority for Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.
“While there are indications of promising progress, there is much more that we must do to help more Ohio babies reach their first birthdays, particularly African-American infants given that the black infant mortality rate hasn’t changed significantly since 2009,” said DeWine.
Shortly after taking office in 2019, DeWine created the Governor’s Children’s Initiative and formed an advisory committee on Home Visitation to explore ways to increase access to proven home visiting services. Home visiting services can help reduce infant mortality, improve school-readiness, and give parents the skills they need to help their children be healthy, happy, and ready to learn.
DeWine also increased funding for Ohio’s home visiting programs in the 2020-2021 state budget, investing an additional $30 million over the biennium and bringing total state funding for home visiting to $70 million over two years.
“We can help more Ohio babies reach their first birthdays by addressing infant mortality risk factors like the health of the mother before pregnancy, pre-term birth, access to prenatal care, and safe sleep practices,” said Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton. “Although there were fewer prematurity-related infant deaths in 2018, prematurity-related conditions remained the leading cause of infant death in Ohio, comprising almost one-third of deaths.”
According to the report, the leading causes of infant deaths in Ohio in 2018 were:
- Prematurity-related conditions including pre-term birth, respiratory distress, and low birth weight (29%)
- Birth defects (21%)
- External injury (10%)
- Sudden infant death syndrome (8%)
- Obstetric conditions (6%)
Other key highlights of the 2018 Ohio Infant Mortality Report include:
- Prematurity-related infant deaths declined from 314 in 2017 to 269 in 2018
- Infant deaths caused by external injuries increased from 79 in 2017 to 95 in 2018
- Ohio’s infant mortality rate for external injuries significantly increased from 2016 to 2018, with 0.5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2016, to 0.6 in 2017, and 0.7 in 2018
- Out of 140 sleep-related infant deaths reviewed through the Ohio Child Fatality Review process, black infants comprised half (54%) of deaths despite only representing 18 percent of live births
- According to the ABCs of safe sleep practices, babies sleep safest alone, on their back, in a crib. Most sleep-related deaths are found to be preventable. In more than 70 percent of the cases reviewed, babies were not sleeping alone or in a crib or bassinet.