Ohio’s infant mortality rate sees slight drop, tops nation’s

New programs are introduced in Youngstown, Ohio to combat infant mortality.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Ohio’s infant mortality rate declined slightly in 2013, though it continues to far exceed the national average, according to state health data released Monday.

Infant mortality is measured as deaths of live-born babies before their first birthdays. The three leading causes of such deaths in Ohio are prematurity or pre-term births, sleep-related deaths and birth defects.

While the number of infant deaths dropped to 1,024 in 2013 from 1,047 in 2012, Ohio has not seen a significant change in its overall infant mortality rate since 1997.

The 2013 numbers from the state’s Department of Health show Ohio’s overall infant mortality rate was 7.4 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with 7.6 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012. The recent rate is 23 percent higher than the national rate.

While Ohio’s black infant mortality rate has decreased significantly from 1990 to 2013, it remains more than twice the white infant mortality rate.

Health officials said the latest figures do not capture the impact of state initiatives over the last few years that take aim at the problem. Such efforts include public awareness campaigns, smoking cessation programs and improved tracking to identify communities with the highest rates of infant mortality.

“We are making progress, but we all must do even more to save babies’ lives,” Rick Hodges, the state’s health director, said in a statement. “Much has been done over the last two years and we are waiting for that data to be measured.”

Hodges said Ohio must do more to address the racial disparity in infant mortality.

The Health Department has joined a national organization of city and county health departments’ maternal and child health programs to improve birth outcomes in nine metropolitan areas of the state. Those areas account for 95 percent of the state’s black infant deaths and 49 percent of its white infant deaths. The nine communities are Butler County; Canton/Stark County; Cincinnati; Columbus; Cleveland/Cuyahoga County; Youngstown/Mahoning County; Dayton/Montgomery County; Akron/Summit County; and Toledo/Lucas County.

Health officials said they expect to release 2014 infant mortality data this fall.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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