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Nearly 1,500 Ohio medical, health and community workers attend an infant mortality summit in Cleveland

Cleveland's local infant mortality rate experienced a jump from 2014 to 2015 (Photo credit: ideastream/shutterstock)
Cleveland's infant mortality rate experienced a jump from 2014 to 2015

Cleveland health officials are not sure why after years of steady decline, the local infant mortality rate experienced a jump from 2014 to 2015.

Many of the local people tasked with combatting the problem are sharing ideas at an infant mortality conference at the Huntington Convention Center, in downtown Cleveland on Dec. 5 and 6.

The number of children who die before their first birthday in Cuyahoga County is very high -- some of the highest in the state. Over the past five years Cleveland, for example, averaged 13 deaths per 1,000 births which is double the national average. And if you isolate African American baby deaths the numbers are even higher.

Lauren Henderson, maternal and child health director for March of Dimes of Northeast Ohio, said local officials are using more data and evidence-based practices to fight the problem.

Despite the best efforts of numerous local groups there was an increase in Cleveland’s infant deaths between 2014 and 2015 from 10.4 to 15.9.

“So over a 10-year trend, we see the numbers decreasing but if we look more closely at a year-to-year, this is the first year that we see an uptick in those numbers so it has drawn our attention,” Henderson said.

Nearly 1,500 Ohio medical, health and community workers attend the infant mortality summit, which featured discussions and panels on a wide range of topics – from how to prevent premature births to programs aimed at promoting responsible fatherhood.

It was jointly sponsored by the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Collaborative to Prevent Infant Mortality said Sandy Oxley, chief of maternal child and family health at ODH.

Ohio is ranked 45 th in the nation out of 50 in infant deaths, up from 49 and 50 th just a few years ago, Oxley said. There are many reasons that the number of babies who die before their first birthday remains stubbornly high in Ohio.

“Where we live and where we play and work certainly have an impact on that. Poverty has an impact on infant mortality, so there’s not that one reason that we experience a high infant mortality rate,” she said.

Oxley said the conference provides an opportunity for organizations from across the state to share their best practices for combatting the problem.

The infant mortality summit gives Cleveland officials, who are working in the trenches, an opportunity to hear new ideas and drill deeper, Henderson said.  



Marlene Harris-Taylor
Marlene is the director of engaged journalism at Ideastream Public Media.