Child deaths stay level after '06

By William K. Alcorn


After the peak of 69 child deaths in Mahoning County in 1993, the number of under-18 deaths consistently has gone down and stayed fairly level since 2006, with 38 recorded in both 2009 and 2010, a report says.

Of the 38 who died in 2010, 29 were infants from birth to 1 year old, and three each were age 1 to 4, 5 to 9, and 15 to 17, according to a report by the Mahoning County Child Fatality Review Board, which is coordinated by the Mahoning County District Board of Health. The 2010 statistics are the most recent available.

“While all recommendations in the report are significant, there is a truly preventable cause of death that persists ... children who die in a sleep environment,” the report says.

For this reason, the CFR wants to ensure that the public understands the necessity of providing children with a safe sleep environment, said Patricia Sweeney, county health commissioner.

To prevent infant asphyxiation, the CFR board recommends always placing babies to sleep alone, on his or her back, in a safety-approved “naked crib” with a firm mattress and a well-fitted sheet and without toys, soft bedding, bumper pads or stuffed animals, Sweeney said.

In its report, the fatality-review board illustrated its concern with this tragedy that occurred in April 2010.

“A mother and her 1-year-old daughter laid down on a bed to take a nap. She placed her 3-month-old infant at the bottom of the bed on his stomach on top of a comforter,” the reports says. “The lifeless infant was discovered, face down on the bed, a couple of hours later. The coroner ruled the cause of death positional asphyxia.”

Co-sleeping, the practice of one person sharing the same bed with another, can lead to suffocation in infants when the other person sharing the bed falls asleep, Sweeney added.

The infant can become trapped between couch cushions or between a bed and the wall or when the person unknowingly rolls over on top of the infant. Unconsciousness can happen in less than a minute and death within a few minutes from lack of oxygen, she added.

The review board urged health-care and social-service providers to continue to reinforce the “Back to Sleep” and “ABC” message (babies should sleep Alone on the Backs and in a Crib) with caregivers of infants.

According to the Ohio Child Fatality Review’s 11th annual report, more children died of asphyxia than vehicular crashes.

Homicide is traditionally the No. 1 cause of injury-related child deaths in Mahoning County.

Since 2005, 25 children have been victims of homicide. The majority were age 15 to 17, but about 24 percent were age 1 to 4.

Homicide deaths to males and blacks were disproportionately high, and the majority of these homicides were as a result of a shooting, whether or not the child was the intended victim, the report says.

Four died because of arson, and the children between age 1 and 4 died because of physical abuse or neglect.

To see the report online, go to the county health board’s website,

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