LIMA — A report from the Ohio Department of Health reveals the state’s infant mortality rate is showing signs of improvement, but African-American babies continue to die at more than twice the rate of whites.
In Allen County, there were 11 infant deaths compared to 1,280 births in 2014. This equates to a mortality rate of 8.6, which is slightly above the state average.
Though statistics comparing the amount of deaths in Allen County’s black and white infants were unavailable, a local health department official said the statewide trend also holds true on a local level.
“In Allen County, we definitely experience the disparity between the African-American population and the white population,” said Tami Gough, director of prevention and health promotion services at the Allen County Public Health.
According to the report, Ohio’s overall infant mortality rate fell from 7.4 deaths per 1,000 births in 2013 to 6.8 in 2014. However, the black infant mortality rate rose from 13.8 deaths in 2013 to 14.3 in 2014.
These statistics concern Gough, but she is optimistic African-American mortality rates will decrease because the health department is working to combat this problem.
For the last 12 years, the health department has provided a Caring For Two program, a neighborhood outreach initiative that provides in-home visits for African-American women during and after pregnancy. Home visits are conducted by community health workers, who serve as advocates for these women.
“They educate them on some of the reasons for infant mortality and the importance of prenatal care, as well as helping them overcome barriers such as helping them find transportation to appointments,” Gough said. “We have seen this program help reduce the rates of infant mortality in the African-American population.”
Community health workers also provide pregnancy, nutrition and family planning education, and they can make referrals to prenatal care providers, pediatricians and more.
Gough said the program served 477 babies and their mothers since 2003. In the last five years, there have been five infant deaths among the African-Americans they served. She said this equates to an infant mortality rate of 1.04, which is much lower than the infant mortality rate for African-Americans in Ohio over the last five years.
According to ODH, the infant mortality rate among blacks has not been below 13.8 deaths per year since 2010.
Gough said that while these statistics are promising, she hopes the Caring For Two program can serve even more African-American women in the future.
“We have been fortunate to have this program in Allen County, but we can’t make women be a part of it,” she said. “We wish to have more clients in the program because our numbers are so good. Hopefully more women will want to join in the future.”
To learn more about infant mortality or to sign up for Caring for Two, call the health department at 419-228-4457.
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima