Cincinnati, we can do better. Year after year, too many babies in our community die before their first birthday.  In just the first ten months of 2013, we lost 78 babies in Hamilton County.  That means that for every 1,000 babies born in our county, 8.7 haven’t lived to age one.  Cincinnati’s rate is even higher at 10.6 deaths for every 1,000 births.

If the trend continues through the end of the year, it will be slight improvement over last year’s rate. But, when we compare ourselves to the national rate of just over 6, it is clear we still have a long way to go.  The only acceptable goal is that every child born in our community survives his or her first year.

Many of these babies lives could be saved if, as a community, we invest in three key areas: preventing prematurity by increasing the amount of time between each woman’s pregnancies, reducing tobacco use and other substance abuse in pregnancy, and promoting safe sleep for babies.

Evidence shows that waiting 18 months between giving birth to one baby and conceiving the next gives a woman the best chance to have a healthy, full-term baby. When mom’s body has enough time to heal, her next pregnancy is healthier. Not waiting 18 months or more is strongly associated with premature birth, a factor in two thirds of our 2012 infant deaths.

Another way to prevent prematurity in our community is to reduce smoking rates. Tobacco use, and other forms of substance abuse during pregnancy, can be extremely harmful to a developing baby.  Women who smoke during pregnancy are 44% more likely to have an infant death.  Help a pregnant woman you know quit by connecting her with 1-800-QUIT-NOW and encouraging her throughout the process.

We must help families through the sometimes difficult and exhausting first year of a baby’s life.  One key is to share the “ABCs of Safe Sleep” with a young family that you know: babies sleep safest when they sleep Alone, on their Back and in a Crib. In Hamilton County, 16 babies died in 2012 from unsafe sleep conditions.

Pregnant women in Cincinnati need the support of their entire community. Women in our most vulnerable neighborhoods tell us that pregnancy too often feels like a time of constant judgment.  Imagine instead, if it felt like a time of unconditional support from all of us.  This is our city, these are our neighbors, and we must solve this. Together, by focusing on increased spacing, reduced smoking and safer sleep, we can make Cincinnati a healthier place for moms and babies in 2014.

Ryan Adcock
Executive Director, Cradle Cincinnati

Cradle Cincinnati is a collaboration of health and civic leaders formed in June of 2013 to address Hamilton County’s high infant mortality rate.  It is co-chaired by Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune and Cincinnati City Councilmember Wendell Young.