Infant deaths trending down from high point

Posted at 5:01 AM, Mar 24, 2016

CINCINNATI – The infant mortality rate in Hamilton County continued its downward trend in 2015, but still surpasses the national rate, according to a report released by Cradle Cincinnati Thursday.

Between 2001 and 2010, 10.7 babies died for every 1,000 born, according to the group of health and civic leaders. Since 2011, that number has dropped to 9.3, and last year it was down slightly more to 9, but that still is “far higher” than the national average of 5.8 deaths per 1,000 live births.

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The downward trend was assisted by a drop in preterm birth, which Cradle Cincinnati identified as the leading cause of infant death. The rate of preterm birth fell to 10.6 percent, the lowest rate in more than a decade, according to the report. Officials pointed to decreases in some of the leading causes of preterm birth – short pregnancy spacing and maternal smoking – for the drop.

“Preterm birth is the biggest problem we need to solve if we want healthier infants in Cincinnati, Dr. Jim Greenberg, infant health lead for Cradle Cincinnati, said. “This recent improvement is encouraging, but we still have a long way to go.”

However, there was a small increase in the number of babies who died from birth defects last year compared to the 2011-14 average, 20 compared to 16. Fatal cardiac anomalies were the leading defect contributing to infant death in Hamilton County, according to the report.

Also, sleep-related infant deaths rose in 2015 after dropping the year before. That number dropped from 14 to 7 in 2014 thanks to 28 “separate but aligned local initiatives.” It rose back up to 14 in 2015.

“If you know anyone with a new baby, you can help keep that baby safe by making sure they are put to sleep on their back and in a crib for every single sleep with no exceptions,” Dr. Elizabeth Kelly, women’s health lead for Cradle Cincinnati, said.

Still, there has been improvement in every metric related to infant deaths since the partners formed Cradle Cincinnati in June of 2013.

“This is encouraging change that speaks to the power of partnership,” City Councilman and Cradle Cincinnati Co-Chair Wendell Young said. “Any credit for these improvements belongs to dozens of partner agencies and hundreds of people driving healthy change for families in Cincinnati.”