While new numbers show progress in battle against infant mortality, several Butler County social services agencies say that only spurs their drive to increase awareness and efforts.
The infant mortality rate — which measures the death of children under the age of one year — in Butler County was 6.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2016. A decrease from 7.4 per 1,000 live births in 2013.
The Butler County Partnership to Reduce Infant Mortality (PRIM) has initiated several programs to help save more babies, but are concerned about the lack of women and families using the resources available.
“We have to keep being vigilant and hammer the point home that we have resources to help mothers of all races keep their babies healthy,” said Natalie Jones, a community health worker with Moms and Babies first, formerly known as the High Hopes program. “We could really make more progress in this fight if we could get more people involved.”
The group’s focus areas include: smoking cessation; centering pregnancy; safe sleep; breast feeding support; teen pregnancy reduction; and father involvement.
Jones said that six Butler County projects aimed at reducing infant mortality received more than $2 million from the Ohio Department of Medicaid last year.
“We are reaching out to deal with African-American women because the statistics show that black babies die at twice the rate of white babies in the county, but we want to help mothers of all races keep their babies healthy,” she said.
Black babies in Butler County are dying before the age of 1 at twice the rate of white babies.
It’s a troubling statistic that local and state health experts say contributes to Ohio’s high infant mortality rate, which in 2014 was the worst in the nation for black infant mortality and fifth worst for white mortality. Butler County is among the 10 worst urban areas in Ohio for infant mortality.
Charman Dillard and her 3-month-old son Nicholas Hill Jr., along with his father Nicholas Hill Sr., are a black family that is beating those statistics.
“I just recently moved here to the area from Chicago with my baby. These programs are very helpful and I’m thankful that they are available for my baby and me,” said Dillard, who is involved with Families First, Moms and Babies First and WIC programs.
Ruth Kelly, director of Families First, said the message may be getting old to some, but it should be considered a continuous reminder that the problem still exists.
“We just have the ability to help more people and we aren’t getting the numbers we want to use these resources,” Kelly said. “We have a place here — Primary Solutions — that helps people with no insurance and it is not used to its full capacity. All we can do is keep getting the information out there.”
“Some people think this is just a poor or race issue and that isn’t true,” said Tara Ramsey, of Butler County WIC. “We do put out all of the risk factors to inform people, but this is a health issue that we are really working to address.”
September is Infant Mortality Awareness month and the PRIM team is going to place billboards around the county with clients who are successfully using services to help encourage more mothers to use the county’s services.