Ohio infant deaths reach second lowest level in nearly 80 years

GREG LYNCH / STAFF

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GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Ohio’s rate of infant mortality appears to have slightly improved from 2017 to 2016, newly released data shows.

There were 982 Ohio infants who died before their first birthday last year, down 42 from 1,024 infant deaths in 2016, according to the Ohio Department of Health. The 2017 number marks the second time infant deaths have dipped below 1,000 since 1939 which was the first year the state started keeping records.

» RELATED: Infant deaths increased in Ohio in 2016, state puts $50M in budget for issue

The last time the number of infant deaths dropped below 1,000 was the year 2014, according to ODH.

Despite the decline, a racial disparity in infant deaths continued last year.

African-American infants died at three times the rate at which white infants died and more than twice the overall rate of infant mortality in Ohio, according to ODH. The state reports 384 black infants died in 2017, up from 369 in 2016.

“The data shows we are helping more babies in the state reach their first birthdays, but we still have a lot of work to do – particularly in eliminating racial disparities in birth outcomes,” said Lance Himes, ODH director. “Ohio is investing millions of dollars in local infant mortality and disparity initiatives, particularly in high-risk communities and populations.”

» RELATED: High county infant death rates remain worrisome for health officials

Nine Ohio counties accounted for around 66 percent of all infant deaths last year and 90 percent of black infant deaths, ODH reported. Those nine counties included some of Ohio’s most populous cities such as Cleveland in Cuyahoga County, Columbus in Franklin County, Cincinnati in Hamilton County, Toledo in Lucas County, Dayton in Montgomery County, Youngstown in Mahoning County, Akron in Summit County and Canton in Stark County and Butler County.

Of the nine counties with the highest infant mortality rate, Butler, Franklin, Stark and Summit all saw fewer black infant deaths in 2017 than they did the year before.

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