CINCINNATI — For the second year in a row, Hamilton County's infant mortality rate has declined to a new record low, with more babies than ever before surviving past their 1st birthday, according to the 2021 annual report from Cradle Cincinnati, a community advocacy group working to reduce infant mortality. However, racial disparity in infant mortality rates still persist throughout the county.
A total of 66 babies died before they turned 1-year-old in Hamilton County in 2021 — down 10 from 76 deaths in 2020, which also saw a decline in infant mortality from 2019. It's a 13% decline from 2020.
The county ended 2020 with an infant mortality rate of 7.4 deaths per 1,000 live births — an 18% decline from the five-year rate recorded between 2015 and 2019.
By the end of 2021, Hamilton County's infant mortality rate was 7.4 deaths per 1,000 live births. Overall, the county saw a decrease in preterm birth deaths, birth defect deaths and sleep-related deaths.
Despite this overall win for Hamilton County, racial disparity in infant deaths increased from 2020, when it was previously decreasing year-over-year.
Locally and across the nation, Black babies for years have been twice as likely to die before their first birthday. Because of that, Cradle Cincinnati has focused its work in recent years on reducing infant mortality among Black families.
In 2021, Black babies were nearly five times more likely to die before their first birthdays than white babies, according to Cradle Cincinnati's report.
In the past year, there was a sharp decrease in white infant mortality — 2.4 deaths per 1,000 live births — at the same time the county saw an increase in Black infant mortality — 13.4 deaths per 1,000 live births.
In 2020, 36 Black babies died in Hamilton County, for a rate of 10.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. That represented a 42% decline since 2017 and an all-time low for the second year in a row — until 2021, when the rate rose once more to 13.4, the highest rate since 2018.
Hamilton County's rate mirrors a national trend that indicates Black babies die at higher rates than white babies, regardless of their parent's socioeconomic status or health.
Despite a decline overall in sleep-related deaths, they still remain high. In 2021, 19 babies died from a sleep-related infant death, down from 21 in 2020, but still higher than the 10-year average of 15, according to Cradle Cincinnati.
Nearly 68% of Hamilton County babies that died from sleep-related causes in 2021 were Black, according to the Cradle Cincinnati report.
The most common cause of sleep-related death in infants is accidental suffocation, when an adult shares a sleep space with an infant and rolls over onto the child, Cradle Cincinnati said.
"We know that practicing safe sleep can be difficult, especially when parents are sleep deprived," said Dr. Elizabeth Kelly, co-founder of Cradle Cincinnati and medical director of Women's Community Health Services at UCMC, in a press release. "But, we all have a role with safe sleep, whether helping families create safe sleep plans and anticipate barriers during prenatal appointments, modeling safe sleep in hospital settings or lending a hand when their baby finally arrives. Every person who shares and practices safe sleep standards has the potential to save a life."
You can read the full reports from Cradle Cincinnati below:
Hamilton County Infant Mortality Rates by WCPO 9 News on Scribd
2021 Cradle Cincinnati Annual Report Final by WCPO 9 News on Scribd