Infant mortality rate falls in Butler County, racial gap remains in Ohio

Fewer Ohio infants died in 2018, new state data shows, though a wide gap still remains between the rate of black and white babies who celebrate their first birthday.

Ohio’s infant mortality rate — the number of babies who die before age 1 per 1,000 live births — was 6.9 for 2018, the Ohio Department of Health said Tuesday.

The rate has declined from a rate of 7.2 deaths per 1,000 births in 2017 and, before that, a rate of 7.4 for 2016. 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 in every racial and ethnic group.

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While looking at ethnicity, the Hispanic infant mortality rate is 6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births in Ohio and for non-Hispanic infants the rate is 7.

“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 Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who has made infant mortality prevention one of his policy and budget priority.

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The leading causes of infant deaths in Ohio in 2018 were prematurity-related conditions, birth defects, external injuries, SIDS and obstetric conditions.

Black women are at a higher risk of experiencing high stress levels that can lead to preterm birth and a low birth weight delivery.

The infant mortality rate is widely accepted as one of the most sensitive indicators of the health of a community, Butler County General Health District stated in its 2019 Infant Vitality Annual Report.

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The Journal-News previously reported that the infant mortality rate is an indicator that reflects the range of what mothers and infants in a community are experiencing, from access to health care and education, to encounters with violence, to economic security.

Butler County General Health District’s 2019 Infant Vitality Annual Report was just released and reports that the infant mortality rate for Butler County decreased from 8.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2018 to a rate of 6.7 in 2019.

Although infant mortality has decreased as a whole in Butler County, there is significant racial and ethnic disparities among birth outcomes. Black infants are dying at over two times the rate of white infants. The mortality rate for non-Hispanic black infants in Butler County for the period 2014-2019 was 14 deaths per 1,000 live births compared to non-Hispanic rate of 5.9 deaths per 1,000 births.

Black infants in Butler County were also at a higher risk of being born preterm than white infants in the county.

In 2019, the overall preterm birth rate for Butler County was 10.5%, though that broke down to 13.3% of black infants compared to 9.5% non-Hispanic white infants and 9.2% Hispanic infants.

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Butler County Health District has a range of programs designed to help babies live to celebrate their first birthday, such as the Neighborhood Navigator program to connect pregnant moms to resources and Cribs for Kids to promote safe sleep and provide free Cribettes. Other groups are also a part of the effort, such as Primary Health Solutions, which has a Centering Pregnancy program, which is an evidence-based prenatal care and support group.