New focus put on Ohio’s high infant-mortality rate

A new effort will focus on trying to improve Ohio’s infant mortality rate, which is one of the worst in the nation.

The national rate dropped by 11 percent from 2000 to 2010, but in Ohio it increased 3 percent. The state’s infant-mortality rate of 7.7 per 1,000 births ranks 48th in the nation. The rate for black babies is 49th.

The top causes of infant deaths in Ohio include low birth weight, birth defects and sudden infant death syndrome.

State health department director, Dr. Ted Wymyslo, said it’s a community problem. He said many deaths can be prevented by improving health even before conception.

The health department is partnering with a national organization for a three-year project designed to reduce the disparities between white and black infant-mortality rates.

Locally, doctors said improving the infant mortality rate is a team effort.

“It’s a team effort. Everyone needs to be engaged so we can focus on reducing drug, alcohol use, reducing tobacco use. Improve nutrition, seek care if you had a previous premature baby as early in your pregnancy as you can,” said Dr. Elena Rossi of Arkon Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley.

Dr. Rossi said safe sleep practices can also reduce the infant mortality rate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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