YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month and the Mahoning County Board of Health just released shocking numbers about the infant mortality rate in the Mahoning Valley.
Infant mortality is the death of a baby before their 1st birthday.
“We have extremely high infant mortality in this region,” said Mahoning County Health Commissioner Patricia Sweeney.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, the infant mortality rate for Ohio was 7.7 percent between 2007 and 2010, which is more than the national rate of 6.1 percent.
And in Mahoning County, it was even higher, reaching nearly 10 percent. Mahoning County is one of the three worst communities in the state for infant mortality.
“What we have learned in Mahoning County is that our highest area of risk is all related to premature births and preventable congenital anomalies, or birth defects,” Sweeney said.
The study showed the rate for the African American population in Mahoning County was much higher, at more than 16 percent.
Sweeney said the mother’s health status before the pregnancy and health care she receives during the pregnancy plays a major role in the baby’s health.
‘Things like obesity, perhaps hypertension or diabetes coming into the pregnancy. Poor nutrition status coming into the pregnancy,” Sweeney said.
Substance abuse, smoking and alcohol also can affect the mother’s health.
“From 2006 through 2010, as the rest of the nation’s infant mortality rates have dropped 11 percent, Ohio’s has increased 3 percent,” Sweeney said.
The Mahoning County Board of Health is working with the Ohio Department of Health, as well as other health organizations, to look at what interventions they can put in place in these communities to address these risks and lower the mortality rates.