MEIGS COUNTY — The number of infant deaths in Ohio declined slightly in 2013, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
According to the department, the 2013 number was 1,024 in 2013, which is down from 1,047 in 2012.
However, according to the data, Ohio’s overall 2013 infant mortality rate remained higher than the national average by 23 percent. Racial disparity was also found in the deaths, with black infants dying at more than twice the rate of white infant deaths.
“An infant mortality rate is a really important statistic for an area because it is a pretty good indicator of how well we care for not only our children and women, but also the overall health of our society in general,” said Juli Simpson, Children and Family Health Services director at the Meigs County Health Department.
Infant mortality is defined nationwide as the death of a live-born baby before his or her first birthday. Infant mortality rate is calculated as the number of such deaths per 1,000 live births. It is commonly expressed in three ways — overall infant mortality rate, white infant mortality rate and black infant mortality rate.
The three leading causes of infant deaths in Ohio are prematurity/pre-term births, sleep-related deaths and birth defects.
Simpson said that of the three leading causes, preterm birth is the No. 1 cause, but added that many other factors can lead or contribute to the overall problem.
“For example, we know that regular prenatal care for expectant moms can help reduce this risk for premature birth and poor outcomes,” she said. “But what if the mom has no support system or has no way to even get to an appointment or is addicted to drugs?
“What is she has no insurance; knows smoking is linked to poor birth outcomes and wants to quit but is struggling; doesn’t fully understand the importance of regular prenatal care and doesn’t know where to go for help; has nowhere for the new baby to sleep; needs some nutrition guidance for herself and the baby while struggling to breastfeed? There are so many factors that can either play a role in improving the problem, or worsening it.”
According to the data, the overall Ohio Infant Mortality Rate (number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births) in 2013 was 7.4, with a rate of 7.6 in 2012. White babies in Ohio in 2013 had a rate of 6.0, with a rate of 6.4 in 2012, and black babies had a rate of 13.8 in 2013, with a rate of 14.0 in 2012. According to local statistics from Simpson, between 2004 and 2013 the Infant Mortality Rate in Meigs County was 7.9.
“Although not among the worst in the state, it is still higher than both the state (7.4) and national rates (6.0), so as a community, we definitely have some work to do,” she said.
On a local level, Simpson said the Meigs County Health Department and several other agencies in the area provide resources and programs to help, “but families have to take the initiative to reach out sometimes and use them, which can be difficult.
“A lot of times, I don’t think it is necessarily about families intentionally doing something that puts a their baby’s or their own health at risk,” she said. “It can be a case of not having the social support, not knowing where to go for help or having the means to get the care or even being misinformed. As a community, we need to help break down these barriers and reach out to help each other.”
The Meigs County Health Department can be reached at 740-992-6626.
Reach Lindsay Kriz at 740-992-2155. EXT. 2555.