YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Babies in Mahoning County are at a greater risk of dying before their first birthday than anywhere else in the state, and that is after years of effort and work.
For the last eight years, the infant mortality rate in Mahoning County has continued to creep up. Now, it is the worst in the state and among the worst in the nation. Read the latest report here.
In Youngstown, 12 out of every 1000 babies die before their first birthday. That rate goes even higher for black babies. Birth outcomes don’t really make racial distinctions either. Mahoning county also has the highest rate of deaths for babies born to white mothers.
Mahoning County Health Commissioner Patricia Sweeney says the county is teaming up with City Match and the Equity Institute Brief to take a look at why the rate isn’t going down.
Sweeney said that many deaths can be attributed to the infant’s sleep environment.
“Babies placed in bed either co-sleeping or don’t have a safe sleep environment,” Sweeney said. “They are placed on a soft sleep environment and suffocate.”
Other factors include the mothers’ health and family support. That means support groups, health counseling during pregnancy and education after birth.
“These efforts are going on together to try to build awareness of the main components of why we are experiencing the birth outcomes that we are,” Sweeney said.
Organizations like WIC target at-risk mothers through a community referral system. They are trying to get pregnant women help sooner.
“If she (the mother) is more nourished during her pregnancy, she is going to have a healthier pregnancy and an easier delivery, and of course, a healthier mom makes for a healthier baby,” said Heidi Dibacco, Mahoning County WIC. “The health of our youngest members is kind of a measuring stick of the health of the society in general. If we can’t keep our youngest members healthy; that shows our health as a society.”