Infant mortality is defined as the death of a live-born baby before his or her first birthday. An infant mortality rate is the number of babies who died during the first year of life per 1,000 live births. In 2018, 938 Ohio infants died before their first birthday, meaning the state's infant mortality rate for all races was 6.9. Ohio’s target is to achieve 6.0 or fewer infant deaths per 1,000 live births in every racial and ethnic group, which is the national Healthy People 2020 objective.
Ohio’s black infant mortality rate of 13.9 in 2018 remained well above the Healthy People 2020 objective. Black infants in Ohio died at nearly three times the rate of white infants. Ohio’s white infant mortality rate of 5.4 in 2018 was better than the Healthy People 2020 objective.
The leading causes of infant death in Ohio are prematurity-related conditions (e.g., preterm birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy has been reached, low birth weight, respiratory distress syndrome, and neonatal hemorrhage), congenital anomalies/birth defects, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), obstetric conditions (e.g. premature rupture of membranes, incompetent cervix, placental separation and hemorrhage), perinatal and other infections, and external injury (e.g. unintentional injuries, homicide, and injuries of undetermined intent). Sleep-related deaths are included in the SIDS or external injury categories depending on the exact cause of death. “Other Causes” of infant death include neoplasms (abnormal tissue growth especially as a characteristic of cancer), anemias (blood disorders), infectious colitis (inflammation of the lining of the colon caused by infection), enteritis (inflammation of the intestines, usually the small intestine), gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines), and other conditions not otherwise specified.
Cause of Ohio Infant Deaths (2018)
Helping every child get a healthy start and effectively combating infant mortality takes strong efforts from many different corners, which is why the Governor’s Office of Health Transformation, the Ohio Departments of Health, Medicaid, Mental Health and Addiction Services, and other partners at the state and local levels have vigorously pursued a comprehensive range of initiatives to help more babies reach their first birthday. Visit the Ohio Collaborative to Prevent Infant Morality site for a summary of Ohio’s many initiatives to address infant mortality.
The Ohio Equity Institute (OEI) is a collaboration between the Ohio Department of Health and local partners. Created in 2012 to address racial disparities in birth outcomes, population data is used to target areas for outreach and services in the nine counties with the largest disparities. Partnering communities coordinated infant vitality efforts including tobacco cessation, group- facilitated prenatal care, safe sleep, birth spacing, family planning, progesterone, breastfeeding support, fatherhood, health education and community engagement activities throughout their counties.
OEI 2.0 launched on October 1, 2018. This redesigned, targeted structure was developed to ensure that the program addressed the greatest drivers of infant mortality and sought to reach the population most vulnerable for poor birth outcomes. This revised iteration builds on the important infrastructure developed during the first five years of the OEI project. Each subrecipient is funded to leverage the resources and services developed and/or coordinated in the first iteration of OEI (State Fiscal Years 14-18) with the objective of connecting the most vulnerable pregnant women from the target counties to evidence-based clinical and social service resources. Counties spent five years planning, engaging the community, and promoting and managing interventions. These networks of interventions and resources are established, and OEI 2.0 seeks connection to the women who need them most.
Communities also work to adopt policy or practice changes impacting the social determinants of health.
The Ohio Department of Health solicited subgrantees to facilitate a multi-pronged population health approach to produce direct, measurable improvements in local birth outcomes and inequities in birth outcomes, including addressing known drivers of inequities. Three entities implemented a community-driven approach to address infant mortality rates by reducing maternal behavioral and medical risk factors, thereby improving healthy birth outcomes for women and infants.
In 2019, Ohio Department of Health Infant Vitality began a partnership with Produce Perks Midwest through House Bill 166. Produce Perks began implementation of a produce prescription program that works with new and expecting mothers to increase affordable access to healthy food in order to improve health outcomes for both mother and babies.
The programs are through Five Rivers Health Center in Dayton and PrimaryOne Health in Columbus. Patients are recruited by a healthcare provider to participate in a prescription produce program. Patients attend monthly visits to their provider to receive nutrition education and have health metrics collected. Patients are given prescriptions, which they can redeem for fruits and vegetables at participating Produce Perks sites.
In 2018, Ohio Department of Health began a partnership with Count the Kicks, to prevent stillbirth and infant death through education and outreach focused on tracking fetal movement in the third trimester in pregnancy. Count the Kicks offers a free kick-counting app that allows expectant moms to track her baby’s kicks, so that she knows when there is a change in what is normal for the baby. Through the partnership, providers and partners can request free education materials, such as brochures, posters, and app download reminder cards.