The infant mortality rate represents the rate at which babies die each year in a given location. Any baby that is born alive and dies before his or her first birthday is included. Rather than measured as a percentage, it is measured as deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2014, there were 10,947 babies born in Hamilton County, and we lost 96 of them. So, the 2014 infant mortality rate in Hamilton County was 8.8. The infant mortality rate for the United States is 6.05.
Poor health for pregnant women and infants reveals poor overall health for our community.
A community’s infant mortality rate is often seen as a “canary in the coal mine.” If our most vulnerable citizens are dying at an alarming rate, that indicates poor overall health for the rest of us. The health and social issues that can correlate with infant mortality include rates of smoking, obesity, drug and alcohol abuse, and poverty. A poor infant mortality rate is a symptom of even larger problems.
Inequalities in infant death rates uncover broader inequalities in our community.
While local infant mortality rates are elevated for every population, there is a much greater impact on the African American community. The prematurity rate in Hamilton County is 69% higher among African Americans. Statewide, Ohio’s African American infants die at more than twice the rate of white infants. That holds true even when factoring in socioeconomic status. For instance, highly educated African American women in Ohio are more likely to have a premature delivery than poor Caucasian women with little education.
It is extremely expensive and that cost affects us all.
Premature babies’ medical costs are, on average, more than twelve times those of a full term baby. That means that our community spends more than $93 million in initial hospitalizations for preemies each year. Add to that the cost of additional maternal care, absenteeism, and lost productivity at work and the cost to our community is even greater. That cost is born by all of us through increased costs for private insurance and Medicaid. Learn more in our Cost of Preterm Birth report.
When looking at the health of our babies, we must first turn to the health of our women. Of the 96 babies that died in Hamilton County in 2014, three quarters were born prematurely and half of those were born so prematurely that they really never had a chance to survive. Because of this, we must start any approach to improving infant health by improving pregnancy health so that more babies are born full term. Similarly, because more than half of all local pregnancies are unplanned, we must start any approach to improving pregnancy health by improving women’s health in general.
We have a crisis in women’s health. When compared to state and national rates, women in Hamilton County are more obese, have more sexually transmitted infections, and have higher rates of tobacco, alcohol and drug abuse. They are more likely to have reported moving within the past year. They are more likely to live in poverty. They report having higher stress levels and less social and emotional support to deal with that stress. As they enter into pregnancy, it is less likely to be an intentional pregnancy and more likely to be spaced too quickly after a previous pregnancy.
We have a crisis in pregnancy health. Pregnant women in our community are significantly more likely to have preterm birth than their peers in the rest of the state and nation. They are less likely to receive timely prenatal care. And, they are more likely to have hypertension during pregnancy or gestational diabetes.
We have a crisis in infant health. In their first year of life, babies in Hamilton County die in their sleep at three times the national rate. Their mothers are less likely to breastfeed, less likely to receive a postpartum check-up and more likely to suffer from postpartum depression.
Learn more about local infant mortality facts and data