Ohio identified infant mortality as a priority in its 2020-2022 State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP). Infant mortality is the death of an infant before his or her first birthday. The infant mortality rate is the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births. The infant mortality rate not only serves as a key indicator of maternal and infant health but is also an important measure of the health status of a community.
Black infants are 2.7x more likely to die before their first birthday than white infants (2020).
864 babies died before their first birthday (2020).
493 white infant deaths.
326 Black infant deaths.
6.7 overall infant mortality rate (2020).
5.1 mortality rate for white infants.
13.6 mortality rate for Black infants.
In 2020, the infant mortality rate fell to 6.7 from 6.9 in 2019 for all races. The rate among Black infants fell to 13.6 in 2020 from 14.3 in 2019. However, the Ohio and national goal is 6.0 or fewer infant deaths per 1,000 live births in every racial and ethnic group. Racial and socio-economic inequities persist. Black infants die at a rate almost three times as that of white infants. This disparity is not fully explained by differences in maternal health factors but is also caused by the conditions within our communities that may restrict access to needed resources or opportunities and create increased risks that limit optimal wellness.
More information can be found in the 2020 Infant Mortality Annual Report.
Healthcare is only a piece of the puzzle. To understand health holistically, we need to consider it outside the view of a traditional healthcare system and individual health behaviors. We need to consider the many other factors that impact our health and well-being – factors like the schools we attend, the conditions in which we work, our culture and religion, and the relationships we experience – factors most commonly known as the social determinants of health.
Too often, community, economic, health, and social services work independently, which makes it difficult for families to know about, access, and benefit from the resources and opportunities those services provide. To pursue equity in maternal and child health, it is essential to account for the unique circumstances of each pregnant and parenting family and consider the community in which they live, work, and play. Ohio must deploy strategies that address both the clinical and social factors that affect maternal and child health and well-being. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio helped the state frame the balance between these factors in a 2017 report, “A new approach to reduce infant mortality and achieve equity: Policy recommendations to improve housing, transportation, education and employment.” The 2017 report can be located on the Health Policy Institute of Ohio website.
Modifiable factors that influence health
Clinical care: Such as prenatal care and quality and access: 20%
Health Behaviors: Such as tobacco use and nutrition: 30%
Social, economic and physical environment: 50%
Underlying driver of inequity: Poverty, racism, discrimination. trauma, violence, and toxic stress.
Under the leadership of Gov. Mike DeWine, many initiatives to improve conditions and resources for local communities experiencing the greatest disparities in health and social conditions have started. Shortly after being sworn in, Gov. DeWine created the Governor’s Office of Children’s Initiative to advance children’s issues and align programming across Ohio’s child-serving agencies. To address disparities in maternal and infant mortality, collaborative efforts across numerous cabinet agencies, boards, and commissions are required. More information can be found on the Governor's Office of Children's Initiatives website.
Learn more about Ohio's response to infant mortality by visiting our infant mortality programming page.
Infant Vitality Program Administrator
Ohio Department of Health
Bureau of Maternal, Child and Family Health
246 North High Street
Columbus, OH 43215
Phone: (614) 466-4013