The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

November 29, 2012

Ohio’s death rate for black babies might be highest in the nation

Ohio’s infant-mortality rate — already 11th worst in the nation — inched up to 7.9 per 1,000 live births in 2011, according to preliminary data announced today during the state’s first summit to address the problem.

The rate, which had been 7.7 per 1,000 live births the previous year, rose at a time when infant-mortality rates in many states are dropping. It’s the highest since 2005, though it remains significantly below the infant-mortality rates of several decades ago.

But the new data are bleaker for black infants. The death rate was 15.8 per 1,000 live births last year, up from 15.5 the previous year. That puts Ohio on course to have one of the highest— if not the highest — infant-mortality rates among black children, said Dr. Arthur James, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.

“The disparity between us and the rest of the nation is getting worse,” James told about 900 people gathered at the Columbus Convention Center.

James and other speakers said it will be necessary for society in its entirety — not just clinicians — to work to lower the rate in Ohio, which he called the “caboose” in making strides to lower infant-mortality rates.

Infant mortality is a measure of community health that includes the deaths of all babies who don’t reach their first birthday. Ohio had 1,088 infant deaths in 2011, James said.

“Failure is not an option,” he said to applause. “We will not allow our babies to continue to die at this rate.”

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