Ohio infant deaths decrease, but racial disparity continues


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The number of infant deaths in Ohio decreased overall in the latest figures, including a substantial drop in deaths of black babies, but racial disparity continues, the Health Department said Tuesday.

The state recorded 938 infant deaths in 2018, down from 982 the previous year for an overall infant mortality rate of 6.9 compared to 7.2 the year before. The national infant mortality rate is 5.8.

The rate among black infants fell to 13.9 in 2018 from 15.6 the previous year, but that rate is still more than 2 1/2 times that of the morality rate of white infants, the state said. In addition, more than half the 140 sleep-related infant deaths were black babies, even though they represent only 18% of live births, the Health Department said.

“Although we’re encouraged by this decrease in African-American infant mortality, this indicates to us that our work is far from done,” said Dr. Mark Hurst, Health Department medical director.

Among the leading causes of infant deaths in 2018 were premature births, respiratory distress, and low-birth weight.

Also Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown introduced legislation to boost access to the federal Women, Infants and Children supplemental food program as a way of fighting maternal and infant mortality rates.

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