In Focus: Infant Mortality in Ohio
Despite significant progress in reducing infant mortality in the United States, more than 23,000 infants died in the United States in 2015. Congenital birth defects and anomalies, low birth weight, preterm birth, and maternal complications account for nearly half of all infant deaths, but several other factors are associated with infant mortality, including maternal health, prenatal and postnatal care, and access to quality health care.1,2
Racial and ethnic disparities in infant mortality rates make addressing the problem all the more challenging. For example, the infant mortality rate is significantly higher among blacks at 11 deaths per 1,000 births, compared with five deaths per 1,000 births for white and Hispanic infants.3 Mortality is also higher among infants born to mothers younger than 20 years and older than 40 years compared with those born to mothers of other ages.
In Ohio, 1,024 infants died before their first birthday in 2016, a 1.9% increase from 2015.4 While Ohio’s infant mortality rate was 7.4 per 1,000 live births overall in 2016, notable disparities exist across the state. Similar to national trends, the mortality rate for black infants in Ohio is nearly three times the rate of white infants (15.2 per 1,000 live births compared to 5.8), and the rate in some Ohio counties is triple that of other counties.
Prematurity-related conditions (such as preterm birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy, low birth weight, and respiratory distress) are the leading causes of infant mortality in the state.5
Helping More Babies Reach Their First Birthdays
While the causes of infant mortality are complex and can be difficult to address, more babies can reach their first birthdays through evidence-based programs that address both prenatal and postnatal factors. Improving access to and use of ongoing prenatal care, as well as reducing maternal smoking and alcohol consumption, are key strategies toward decreasing infant mortality, as are programs for reducing the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and accidents through community interventions.7,8
Successful interventions should also address the persistent socioeconomic disparities in infant mortality rates. For example, expanding access to family planning counseling services that promote healthy birth spacing (pregnancies that begin more than 18 months after a prior birth) has been shown to reduce the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight, as well as reduce health care costs from better birth outcomes.9
Taking Action to Reduce Infant Mortality in Ohio
CelebrateOne was created in 2014 to reduce the overall infant mortality rate in Franklin County – one of Ohio’s largest counties – by 40% and cut the racial health disparity gap in half by 2020. To meet these aggressive goals, and with a $1.7 million grant from United Health Foundation, CelebrateOne is working to improve women’s health before, during, and after pregnancy using a collaborative approach targeted at neighborhoods with the highest infant mortality rates.
CelebrateOne’s 2017 accomplishments include:6
- Training 46 community health workers since 2015 to help women navigate the health care system, connect them to resources, and o er advice on infant care.
- In collaboration with Columbus Public Health, training 615 Columbus residents to be Safe Sleep Ambassadors and spread the word about safe sleep practices to friends, families, and community groups.
- Partnering with health and social service providers to improve women’s access to early prenatal care and reduce smoking rates during pregnancy.
 Deaths: Final Data for 2014. National Vital Statistics Reports, 2016.
 Infant mortality in the United States: trends, di erentials, and projections, 1950 through 2010. American Journal of Public Health, 1995
 Trends in infant mortality in the United States, 2005-2014. National Center for Health Statistics, 2017.
 Ohio Department of Health. 2016 Ohio Infant Mortality Data: General Findings.
 CelebrateOne data.
 Guidance for preventing birth defects. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
 Maternal, Infant, and Child Health. Healthy People 2020 website.
 Birth Spacing and Birth Outcomes Fact Sheet. March of Dimes, November 2015.