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Published: Sun, August 17, 2014 @ 12:01 a.m.

RELATED: • Youngstown mom still struggles for answers in death of 10-week-old daughter

• Rx for reducing infant mortality: Increase education, lessen poverty

By WILLIAM K. ALCORN

alcorn@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

If you are a black child born in Ohio, you have the worst chance of surviving until your first birthday of any state in the nation.

The statistics are so grim, in fact, that Erin Bishop, acting health commissioner of the Youngstown Board of Health, noted “Our numbers are similar to those of a Third World country.”

As of 2012, the latest statistics available, Ohio had the worst infant mortality rate, or IMR, in the United States — 50th out of 50 — for black babies who die before they are a year old, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Nationally, the overall mortality rate for all babies that die in the first 12 months of their lives is 6.05 per 1,000 births, compared with 7.7 per 1,000 births overall in Ohio, which ranks the state 47 out of 50 in that category.

The disparity between the rate for black and white babies in Ohio is more startling, however, local health officials say.

The death rate for black infants in the state in 2012 was nearly 14 per 1,000 births compared with 6.4 per 1,000 white births, said Dr. Elena Rossi, neonatologist and associate chairwoman of pediatrics at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley in Boardman.

In Mahoning County, the disparity between the black and white IMR is even wider

than in the rest of the state. As Patricia Sweeney, commissioner of the Mahoning County Health District, put it “The outcomes are abysmal.”

The white mortality rate was 6 per 1,000 births compared with 23.6 per 1,000 black births in Mahoning County, where the overall mortality rate was 10.8 per 1,000 births. The black mortality rate is up after averaging 16.74 per 1,000 births between 2008 and 2012, Dr. Rossi said.

“What’s facing us is that the rest of the country is improving, and we are getting worse,” Dr. Rossi said.

According to Ohio Department of Health, Ohio’s overall IMR has remained stagnant or gotten worse for more than a decade, while the U.S. overall IMR declined 12 percent from 2005 through 2011.

“Clearly, this is a wake-up call telling us that we need to increase our energy and efforts to direct resources to reduce the infant mortality rate locally and statewide,” Dr. Rossi said.

The first steps for local officials is gathering hard data to identify the causes and set priorities and then apply solutions.

Poverty and the lack of social support (a place to live, healthy food, etc.) play major roles in the worsening infant mortality rate among blacks and whites, but the largest problem is that too many premature babies are being born, health officials said.

“It follows, that the more severely at-risk premature babies that are born, the more infant deaths there will be,” Dr. Rossi said.

Using data, the Mahoning-Youngstown Birth Outcome Equity Team, co-chaired by Sweeney and Bishop, has identified and prioritized areas to improve the overall infant mortality rate.

Bishop also is a member of the Ohio Institute for Equity in Birth Outcomes Leadership Team representing all the Ohio Equity Institute Teams.

The Birth Outcome Equity Team — consisting of public and medical health officials, community leaders, representatives of Women Infant and Children and Mahoning County Family and Children First Council — and other groups and individuals are developing a plan to reduce the disparity between white and black infant mortality rates in Mahoning County.

Local health officials said data reveal not just one cause for Ohio’s and Mahoning County’s high rates.

As a result, they have identified several major areas in which they believe progress can be made through education and medical practices.

On average, three babies die a week in Ohio from sleeping issues, and two of these deaths are potentially preventable, Dr. Rossi said.

Parents need to ensure that babies have a safe sleep environment in a crib and are not in a more-dangerous environment such as a parent’s bed.

Also, women living in poverty and with low education are experiencing poorer birth outcomes than people with more resources, said Sweeney, who noted that a group of 12 to 15 at-risk women who are entering pregnancy is being formed so that the women can go through prenatal care together.

They will be a support system for each other, she said.

“I feel the need to react ... to respond ... to educate and get more people involved. Some of the high IMR is preventable. Fiftieth worst out of 50 states is terrible for black infant mortality rates,” Dr. Rossi said.

“It’s going to be tough to reverse the trend, but we can make improvements. We’re in this for the long haul,” the doctor said.


Comments

1sue(171 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Statistics also show that babies born out of wedlock have a higher mortality rate.

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2Photoman(1004 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

is it possible that a greater usage of illegal drugs in the community could have an impact on these statistics?

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3redvert(2065 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Photoman, you seem to give the impression that just maybe taking responsibility by the parents might be the real solution to the problem. This train of thought was not mentioned at all in the article. Of course some of us didn't expect that it would of been did we? To do so would of suggested a racial bias!

“Clearly, this is a wake-up call telling us that we need to increase our energy and efforts to direct resources to reduce the infant mortality rate locally and statewide,” Dr. Rossi said.

Just throw taxpayers money at the situation. Maybe we could create a new department to oversee the spending of the funds. It could dispense additional EBT cards with funds that could be used for food and shelter ....or exchanged for drugs as the current EBT cards are often used for.

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4bunkpatrol(87 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Blaming the parents unfortunately does nothing to help the babies.

There would be plenty of taxes available if corporations were not allowed to use off shore tax shelters.

But instead, you fools fall right into the trap of blaming someone worse off than you when you feel some economic pressure yourself. It's the right wing notion of "divide and conquer" that has destroyed the middle class and the tax base it supported.

Soon it will be your bridges and roads to collapse because this is all a symptom of failing public infrastructure. Deregulation, privatization, off shore tax shelters. The money has been looted from the working class and I , for one, do not blame the poor for our woes.

But at least you all get comfort from blaming black people for doing drugs. Get a clue. You are all cheerleading the looters and blaming the sufferers. None of you were born into poverty or you wouldn't be blaming them from the comfort of your easy chairs in front of your computers.

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5dontbeafool(912 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

@bunk, I agree with some of your points, especially about corporate welfare, however, no matter how poor you are, you have to have some level of personal responsibility as a parent to make the best choices that you can. If you are doing drugs as a parent with young children, that is not a good choice. That little money could have been used in other ways to improve their child's life/health. My parents were poor, but they ALWAYS, put me and my sister first. They would do without before they would let us do without. Parenting 101.

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6steivo(540 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

What are the causes for the increase in pre-mature births?

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7bunkpatrol(87 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Some of the worst parenting in the word is done by the well to do, who spoil their kids with things rather than time. These children survive infancy but never grow up. Talk about entitlement.

And they probably do more drugs, they just have the resources to get bailed out of the system.

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8dontbeafool(912 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

@bunk, that is true, however, this issue is referring to infant mortality rates. According to the stats and this artical, it is much greater for the poor folk and black people. The rich people maybe are just as bad when it comes to spoiling and raising their kids, but it seems like they are at least keeping their kids alive to grow up entitled. I too would like more information as to why the infant mortality rate is so much higher in the black community, and in Ohio specifically. What is so different?

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9redvert(2065 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

bunkpatrol, you have the typical liberal mentality of blaming someone else instead of the ones responsible.

You stated "you fools fall right into the trap of blaming someone worse off than you when you feel some economic pressure yourself." No, when we feel economic pressure we do whatever it takes to overcome that pressure instead of whining about it hoping for a handout.

"If you can't feed em, don"t breed em"!!!

I agree that a lot of rich corporations do use offshore tax shelters, the same corporations that provide employment for millions in this country

I haven't seen any poor people hiring recently, have you?

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10sweatpea(122 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Please correct me if I am wrong.

1 - There is free prenatal care available for those who cannot afford it.
2 - There is free medical care for having a child (meaning entering the hospital in labor, giving birth and post birth care) for those who cannot afford it.
3 - There is free transportation to and from hospital / doctor available.
4 - FMLA covers missed time at work. (unpaid, I know but they cant hold your abscense against you)
5 - WIC covers food for mother and child before and after birth.

None of the above is based on race, just based on participation.

Now, Erin Bishop, Dr Rossi, and Patricia Sweeney need to tell us out of ALL mothers, how many of each ethnicity (w/b) ARE and ARE not taking advantage of this care and then we can really see if the problem falls to education (my guess) or some great white master plan!

Bunk, what do you think of redverts statement - if you cant feed them, dont breed them?

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11uptowngirl(111 comments)posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago

I am tired of every wrong in the country being attributed to racism. Let's see some statistics--age of the mother and infant mortality, education level of the mother and infant mortality, well baby check-ups and infant mortality rates, initiation of pre-natal care and infant mortality. Racism is when a doctor turns a patient away because of skin color. Shame on Humility of Mary for employing a race baiting social worker. Telling people racism is the cause of infant mortality will do little to improve the situation. Time for Humility of Mary to get rid of this social worker--what an embarrassment.

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12JoeFromHubbard(1044 comments)posted 1 month, 1 week ago

These problems are not being blamed on "racism"
which is a state of mind.

They do, however, appear to be statistically relevant to specific races.

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1376Ytown(1243 comments)posted 1 month, 1 week ago

23.6 per 1,000 black births is SHOCKING! That's 1 in 4 babies are dying.before their 1st birthday! If the government is providing the necessary programs what is going on to account for the death of these babies? Mahoning county is not a 3rd world country with disease and lack of food. What would account for these high statistics other than neglect?

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14steivo(540 comments)posted 1 month, 1 week ago

Does anyone know why there are more premature births now?

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15nupanther(24 comments)posted 1 month, 1 week ago

I believe people don't read the entire article

Dr Rossi clearly states 3 babies die a week in ohio from sleeping issues, and 2 are preventable.

The education needed is babies need to sleep on their backs, not on their bellies. Also, a lot of poor people can't afford cribs or basinettes, so the baby sleeps with other kids or mama, probably on a too soft mattress. IMO, poor education is hallmark. I don't mean how far someone gets through school. I mean ignorance breeding ignorance. Grandmama may tell young mama it's ok to have the baby sleep with her, probably because that's how she raised all of her babies

For the people who mentioned drugs- if you worked anywhere in the system I'll bet you would be shocked at whose really on drugs. Lots of suburbanites in this category. I guess people say the usual things to fuel the fire.

76 ytown- 23 out of 1000 isn't 1/4
23 out of 100 in close to 1/4

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1676Ytown(1243 comments)posted 1 month, 1 week ago

nupanther: Yes, I stand corrected. 23 per 1000 is only 2.3%, but that number compared to the rest of the country is still alarming. Why here, what is different? Compliments to you for a well written comment.

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17uptowngirl(111 comments)posted 1 month, 1 week ago

Joe from Hubbard apparently did not read the comments from "Dee" the social worker from Humility of Mary--yes, she attributed the problem to racism. The only comment more incendiary would be attributing the problem to white privilege.

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18JoeFromHubbard(1044 comments)posted 1 month, 1 week ago

@ uptowngirl:

That was in a related story.

Considering the source, it doesn't surprise me.

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19DACOUNTRYBOY(229 comments)posted 1 month, 1 week ago

Is this a problem? Far more are being killed by abortion.

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20uptowngirl(111 comments)posted 1 month, 1 week ago

@ Joe from Hubbard --thank you for the correction. There is just so much fascinating news that it gets scrambled in my head.

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21NBees(44 comments)posted 1 month ago

What do we do for women in 3rd world countries to improve their infant mortality rates, and how can it be implemented here?

It starts with education but deeply held beliefs must be overcome for education to be effective.

Take the sleeping issues... I had a hard time accepting my daughter's decision to lay her babies down on their backs because I thought babies should sleep on their belly with heads turned to the side so their mouths could drain. I was afraid my grandchildren would drown in their vomit if they spit up in their sleep while laid on their backs. I imagine a lot of other women need good solid logical explanations before they are willing to do something in a way that is different from what their mothers and grandmothers and on down the line did.

On another note, birth control needs to be affordable and available - y'all anti-abortion radicals who think IUDs and the Pill "abort" babies are making it harder for women to prevent pregnancies.

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