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Hamilton County records record-low number of infant deaths in 2020

Preterm baby
Posted at 2:48 PM, Apr 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-19 19:37:42-04

CINCINNATI — Despite the many struggles of 2020, Greater Cincinnati made progress in one important area.

Hamilton County had a record-low infant mortality rate last year, according to Cradle Cincinnati, a community advocacy group working to reduce infant mortality.

A total of 76 babies died before their first birthday in 2020 in Hamilton County. That’s 20 fewer than in 2019 and the fewest infant deaths by far since modern record-keeping began in 1968, Cradle Cincinnati said in a news release.

The county ended last year 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.

“The credit here belongs to our entire community,” Cradle Cincinnati executive director Ryan Adcock said in a news release announcing the results. “Despite all of the challenges of 2020, our community rallied around moms and babies like never before.”

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 2020, 36 Black babies died in Hamilton County, for a rate of 10.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. That represents a 42% decline since 2017 and an all-time low for the second year in a row.

While Black babies still are more likely to die than white babies locally, the 2020 results mark the first time since 1994 that Hamilton County’s Black infant mortality rate has been lower than the national average, which is currently 10.8 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to Cradle Cincinnati.

The fact that the improved rates still are more than twice that of all other racial categories shows that much work remains, Cradle Cincinnati’s release noted.

“It is important to remember that these are not merely numbers,” Dr. Meredith Shockley-Smith, Cradle Cincinnati’s director of community strategies, said in the release. “What this means is that 26 fewer Black babies died in our community compared to just a few short years ago. That’s an entire classroom full of students who can now grow up to help Cincinnati thrive.”

Other racial categories – including Asian, Hispanic and white – also had declines in infant deaths in 2020 when compared to 2019, according to the release.

The new data was released at the start of Cradling Cincinnati: A Virtual Experience on Maternal and Infant Health. The event runs from April 19 through April 24 and includes more than a dozen virtual events on topics related to the health of moms and babies in Cincinnati.

Community members can see the agenda and register for free online.

Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. To reach Lucy, email lucy.may@wcpo.com. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.