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Infant Mortality 101

Infant Mortality Defined
Infant mortality is measured by taking the number of live-born babies per thousand who die before their first birthday, producing a number called the infant mortality rate.  But infant mortality is much more than a number.  It is a personal and family tragedy that profoundly affects all those involved.   Infant mortality is a public health crisis both locally and nationally, and we must address it.

Why Babies Die
The main medical reasons for babies dying are prematurity/low birth weight, congenital anomalies (birth defects), and sleep-related deaths.  Babies also die of neglect, injuries, and disease.  Poor physical/mental health, obesity, tobacco/alcohol/drug use, having pregnancies too close together, and limited breastfeeding among women of reproductive age also contribute significantly to the problem.

How We Compare
Through infant mortality, we can gauge trends in children’s and women’s health and determine the quality and availability of medical care, the effectiveness of public health practices and the overall economic, environmental and social conditions of a community. 

The Nation 
In spite of medical expenditures which per capita exceed that of most nations, the United States is at the bottom of the 28 most-developed nations in terms of infant mortality.  The U.S. infant mortality rate of 6.05 is higher than Canada (4.99), England (4.69), Germany (3.95) and France (3.95).

The State 
Ohio’s overall rate (2012) is 7.57, representing 1,047 deaths.  The rate for whites is 6.37, and the rate for African Americans is 13.93, more than double the white rate.     In fact, Ohio ranks 50th in the U.S. in African-American infant mortality, meaning that African-American babies in Ohio are more likely to die before reaching their first birthday than their counterparts in any other state.  The differences in health statistics between whites and African Americans are generally referred to as disparities.

As part of a comprehensive plan called Healthy People 2020, the U.S. (and Ohio) has established the objective of achieving an infant mortality rate of 6.0 by the year 2020.

What Ohio is doing to Reduce Infant Mortality
Decreasing infant mortality is one of the top health priorities of the Ohio Department of Health and of Gov. John R. Kasich’s administration. And this priority is shared by local and community partners throughout Ohio.  This shared commitment to saving babies’ lives is making an impact – we are beginning to see a reduction in Ohio’s infant mortality rate.     Communities and organizations all over Ohio are energizing and mobilizing to promote safe sleep for babies, breastfeeding, and smoking/alcohol/drug cessation and prevention for mothers.  Hospitals are aggressively addressing infant mortality issues. Ohio legislators are championing bills designed to support infant mortality reduction efforts.  Medicaid expansion will complement these efforts as Medicaid-eligible women gain access to health coverage and better access to healthcare services. Payments to healthcare providers that reward better outcomes like healthier women/mothers-to-be are having a positive impact, too.  Increased media visibility is helping raise the general public’s awareness about infant mortality.

It’s up to you and all Ohioans to prevent infant mortality.  Will you accept the challenge?

Last Updated:  12/17/2014