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More Black babies die in Ohio before their first birthday when compared white babies

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More Black babies die in Ohio before their first birthday when compared white babies

Apr 02, 2024 | 4:55 am ET
By Megan Henry
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More Black babies die in Ohio before their first birthday when compared white babies
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From Getty Images.

Fewer Black babies live to see their first birthday in Ohio when compared to white babies, the Ohio Department of Health’s most recent report shows.

Ohio’s overall infant mortality rate was 7.0 in 2021, according to the report. Breaking it down by race, the infant mortality rate was 14.2 for Black babies and 5.4 for white babies. 

“The gap in racial outcomes is alarming,” said state Rep. Andrea White, R-Kettering.

Racism is the umbrella reason why infant mortality rates are higher among Black babies, said Celebrate One Executive Director Danielle P. Tong. 

“The umbrella understanding of racism has to be at the crux of these conversations and the way that tends to play out most consistently is this refrain that folks do not feel listened to by their care providers across systems,” she said. 

“Specifically in the medical system there are implicit biases … this concept around how much pain Black women can take versus other types of women and how do we dispel those kinds of myths.” 

What is infant mortality? 

Infant mortality is the death of an infant before their first birthday and is the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

Black babies die at a rate almost three times higher than white babies in Ohio. In 2021, 912 Ohio babies died before their first birthday — 528 White infant deaths and 332 Black infant deaths.

Ohio has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alabama, Arkansas, Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and South Carolina are the only states with higher rates of infant mortality.

The national infant mortality rate was 5.6 in 2022, according to the CDC.

More Black babies die in Ohio before their first birthday when compared white babies

Prematurity is the main cause of death of babies, according to the 2021 ODH report. Black infants died from prematurity-related causes and external injuries three times the rate of white babies. 

Lucas, Highland, Brown, Scioto, and Guernsey counties had the highest rates of infant mortality in the state, according to the 2021 ODH report. 

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine recently announced that ODH in partnership with the Ohio Department of Children and Youth was awarded $5 million to 19 community and faith-based organizations to better support pregnant women and new parents. 

“Giving all Ohioans the best possible start in life truly begins before a child is even born and that means ensuring the child’s family has access to the resources and support they need,” DeWine said in a news release. 

The money will give funding help start or grow services that are working to improve infant and maternal health. 

“We need strong local partners in order to effectively address our state’s maternal and infant mortality numbers,” Ohio Department of Children and Youth Director Kara Wente said in a news release. “We must work together at the state and local levels so that more children thrive and reach their first birthday.”

CelebrateOne

CelebrateOne has spent the past 10 years helping Franklin County babies see their first birthday. 

“We’re talking about survival and thriving,” Tong said. 

CelebrateOne can pair pregnant women with doulas and community health workers at no cost to help them throughout their pregnancy and their babies first year of life. 

Prenatal care also plays a big role in reducing the infant mortality rate. 

“Too often women just don’t go get prenatal care,” Tong said. “It’s just crucial to avoid preterm births, low birth rate, complications during delivery.”

House Bill 7 

State Reps. White and Latyna Humphrey, D-Columbus, introduced a bipartisan bill last year that would support doula services, pregnancy and postpartum individuals, children and families in poverty, early intervention, child care, a cost savings study for the Medicaid program, and the Head Start Program.

More Black babies die in Ohio before their first birthday when compared white babies
State Rep. Latyna Humphrey, D-Franklin County. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal)

“This bill is about changing the trajectory of our most vulnerable citizens by strategically investing in this first 1,000 days of life concept,” White said. 

House Bill 7 would require the Board of Nursing to establish a registry of certified doulas, a Doula Advisory Board would be created within the board of nursing and it would require the Ohio Department of Medicaid to cover doula services provided by a certified doula with a Medicaid provider agreement. 

“We’ve got more mothers dying from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth in Ohio than many other states,” White said. “We’ve got more than one and 150 babies who don’t live to their first birthday.” 

Moms2B 

Moms2B is working to improve the infant mortality rate in Franklin County.

Dr. Patricia Gabbe helped start the Moms2B program in 2010 within the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. 

They started by focusing on the Weinland Park neighborhood, just north of Downtown Columbus.  

“We learned about the social determinants of health and the medical complications that women in that neighborhood faced,” Gabbe said.

Weinland Park’s infant mortality rate was 16 per 1,000 in 2010 and the neighborhood ended up seeing a five-fold reduction in infant mortality in Moms2B’s first four years, Gabbe said.

Today, Moms2B has weekly sessions for pregnant women throughout various Columbus neighborhoods. 

Follow OCJ Reporter Megan Henry on X.