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Report Maps Infant Mortality Risks in Ohio

There are geographic clusters in Ohio where poor birth outcomes are higher. (Pixabay)
There are geographic clusters in Ohio where poor birth outcomes are higher. (Pixabay)
November 15, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A new report breaks down some of the risk factors of one of the state's biggest public health challenges.

Ohio has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the nation, with hundreds of babies dying each year.

To better understand the problem, The Center for Community Solutions researched key birth outcomes for women in all 88 counties. According to research fellow Joseph Ahern, they found clusters of Ohio where poor birth outcomes are higher.

"Infant mortality or low birth weight or prematurity is mostly prevalent in not only inner-city neighborhoods but also in suburbs and in several rural counties particularly in the south and southeast portions of the state," he explained.

Ohio's infant mortality rate in 2013 of more than seven infant deaths per 1,000 live births ranked 45th among all states. And infant mortality among African-Americans was more than twice the rate among whites.

Ahern said the rates are tied to inadequate prenatal care, which can be correlated to a mother's educational level or socioeconomic status. The poorer a mother, the less likely she is to have prenatal care.

The teen birth rate fell from 2010 to 2014, said Ahern, with about 24 out of every 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19 giving birth. He noted it's an important trend to track, because teens are not always developmentally ready to have a child.

"Having a baby when you're a teenager interrupts your education and sets up the conditions for being in poverty, and also for poor health and social outcomes for both the mother and the child," he said.

The report also shows 38 percent of births statewide are covered by Medicaid. Ahern said this highlights the need for continued work within the program to improve birth outcomes and reduce infant mortality.

"If you have less than healthy outcomes, it's not only bad for the health of the mother and the child but it's also more expensive," noted Ahern. "So if we get mothers into care early, that would save the state a lot of money."

He said with the findings, state leaders along with health agencies, organizations and advocates can better target resources to improve health outcomes for mothers and their babies.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH