Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that, with 1,087 infant deaths (7.9 deaths for every 1,000 live births), Ohio’s overall 2011 infant mortality rate was the 5th worst in the country. Also in the report was the news that with 373 deaths (15.5 deaths for every 1,000 births), Ohio’s infant mortality rate among African Americans was the very worst.

This is more confirmation that our community, and communities around the state, must invest in changing these numbers.  That starts with all partners working together.  No single organization can solve the problem alone.  The only way to address a complex problem like infant mortality is to work collectively.

Locally, we’ve recently invested in data to better understand the problem. Cradle Cincinnati has uncovered three primary drivers of our local high infant mortality rates: a high rate of short pregnancy spacing (less than 18 months between pregnancies), a high rate of maternal smoking and a high rate of sleep-related deaths.  We are working with state leaders and other partnerships throughout the state to drive change in these areas that will lead to healthier babies.

With the rise of recent unprecedented cooperation around this issue, our community has great reason for hope.  Recent developments include:

  • In June, Cradle Cincinnati announced broad collaborative agreement on a strategic plan and the results of a $1.3 million fundraising campaign that will give the community new resources to make a difference in how we address pregnancy health.
  • The Start Strong Avondale project is taking a deep look into one community’s poor birth outcomes.  Their learnings will eventually be spread throughout the county in partnership with Cradle Cincinnati.
  • The Cincinnati Health Department and Hamilton County Public Health are collaborating with Cradle Cincinnati to run a Fetal and Infant Mortality Review committee that analyzes every death in order to inform change.
  • State Senators Shannon Jones and Charleta Tavares are championing new bills in the Ohio Senate aimed at combatting the problem.
  • The Ohio Equity Institute is implementing projects throughout the state aimed specifically at reducing racial inequality in birth outcomes.

“Today’s numbers are a sobering reminder that we have to make this issue a priority,” says Cradle Cincinnati Co-Chair and Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune. “Infant Mortality reduction should move to the top of the agenda for all elected leaders, business leaders and health leaders in Hamilton County.  I am calling on anyone interested in making a difference to join the partnership at Cradle Cincinnati.  We are making changes throughout our community that will ensure we do not continue to see so many babies dying before their first birthday in Hamilton County.”

Cradle Cincinnati Co-Chair and Cincinnati City Councilmember Wendell Young adds, “It is particularly appalling to see just how poorly African American babies are doing throughout the state.  Through Cradle Cincinnati, I am committed to working with partners that address the inequities we see in health.  We cannot continue to accept a society where your zip code or the color of your skin dictates whether or not your child will live to see their first birthday.”

The numbers released today were from 2011, the recent high water mark for local rates.  Our partnership has allowed for real time access to local numbers that give us hope that recent interventions are starting to show promise.

Ham Co IMR Chart

“The unacceptably high number of Ohio babies who die before reaching their first birthday simply breaks my heart, which is why for nearly a year, I’ve been traveling our state, meeting with advocates, and trying to raise awareness for this tragic, and often preventable problem,” says State Senator Shannon Jones. “In the Senate, we have a series of bills designed to address infant mortality, and while we haven’t yet found the perfect formula to put this problem to rest, I believe these initiatives have the potential to move us forward on the issue in an impactful way.”

For further information on the CDC Report, see page 86 of their Deaths: Final Data for 2011 report available at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr63/nvsr63_03.pdf