Lower Butler County infant mortality rate goal of new program

Dr. Rhonda Washington is an obstetrician and gynecologist at Atrium Medical Center.
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Dr. Rhonda Washington is an obstetrician and gynecologist at Atrium Medical Center.

Butler County ranks No. 9 in urban areas in Ohio in infant mortality rate, and Ohio has one of the worst rankings in the United States, said Jenny Bailer, county health commissioner.

“That’s not where you want to be,” she said.

Butler County’s infant mortality rate is 8.47 per 1,000 live births, while Ohio’s statewide infant mortality rate is 7.72 per 1,000 live births.

While infant mortality has been decreasing overall in Ohio since 1990, both Butler County’s and Ohio’s rates are above the Healthy People 2020 national goal of 6.0 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

Bailer said everyone — not just expectant mothers — should be concerned about the county’s high ranking. She said infant mortality and life expectancy are two of the barometers that determine the overall health of a region. If a community can’t care for its newborns, it’s an indication of its poor overall health, Bailer said.

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WHAT IS INFANT MORTALITY?

Infant mortality is defined as the death of a baby before his or her first birthday. The infant mortality rate is the number of babies who died in the first year of life, per 1,000 live births. This rate is considered an important indicator of the overall health of a society.

Source: Ohio Department of Health

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High infant mortality rate, she said, should serve as “a warning sign for our whole community.”

Bailer said there’s “no magic bullet” to eliminate infant mortality, but she hopes a new $15,000 grant from the Middletown Community Foundation will help renovate and assist the centering program at the Maternal Child Center. The MCF recently announced nearly $100,000 in grants to 14 local organizations, said Executive Director T. Duane Gordon.

RELATED: Middletown’s Families First expands efforts to fight infant mortality

The centering program at Atrium will begin later this month or in June, hospital officials said.

The goal of the program is to decrease the number of babies who die before their first birthday, Bailer said. She said African-American babies are two to three times more likely than white babies to die before they are 1 year old. She said the centering program is open to all races, but the target audience will be African-Americans.

She said the health disparity gap between the races must be reduced.

Dr. Rhonda Washington, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Atrium Medical Center, said mothers in the program meet for two hours once a month to learn from speakers about the benefits of proper nutrition and breast-feeding, and it gives mothers-to-be an opportunity to support each other.

RELATED: New Butler County health commissioner targets infant deaths, smoking

Through the program, Washington said the number of babies born will have less chance of having low birth weights or complications during pregnancy. The women are grouped according to their due dates, Bailer said.

Typically, when pregnant women are seen by their medical professionals, the appointments only last 10 to 15 minutes, Washington said.

Bailer called centering “one of the most important programs” because hopefully it reduces infant deaths and creates happier and healthier mothers and babies.

Delivering a healthy baby helps reduce the likelihood that baby will need specialized care and potentially saves the parents thousands of dollars. She said it costs $3,000 to $5,000 a day for treatment in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Bailer said she’d like for a similar centering program to be established in the southern portion of Butler County, like Fairfield or West Chester Twp.

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MOST INFANT DEATHS OCCUR WHEN BABIES ARE:

• Born too small and too early (preterm births are those before 37 weeks gestation)

• Born with a serious birth defect

• Victims of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

• Affected by maternal complications of pregnancy

• Victims of injuries (i.e. suffocation)

These top five leading causes of infant mortality together accounted for 63 percent of all infant deaths in Ohio in some of the most recent recorded statistical data.

Source: Ohio Department of Health