On the one hand, the most recent data (2014) shows Ohio’s infant mortality rate has improved – previously ranked 45th to now 38th overall in the U.S.
On the other, it shows Ohio’s African American population infant mortality rate continues to be more than twice that of Caucasians, ranking dead last in the nation.
“We’re pleased the state continues to promote efforts to reduce infant mortality, but very concerned a specific population isn’t seeing any improvement, especially when there are so many ways to help a baby reach that first birthday,” said Robin Naples, prematurity initiatives program coordinator and maternal fetal medicine social worker at Akron Children’s Hospital. “We’re working at the state, local and even national level to find new and better ways to support and educate moms on ways to safeguard babies, reduce the risk of prematurity and, ultimately, improve infant mortality rates.”
Prematurity – a baby born more than 3 weeks early – is the No. 1 cause of infant death. In support of reducing the risk of prematurity, Akron Children’s Hospital participates in state and local prematurity prevention and infant mortality-related committees and makes continuous improvements internally to assist families.
For example, prior to discharge, all neonatal intensive care unit moms are educated on inter-pregnancy interval (birth spacing) and progesterone treatment to reduce premature birth risks in future pregnancies.
Since smoking during pregnancy is also a risk factor for premature birth, referrals are made to local programs such as Baby and Me Tobacco Free to aid moms in delivering a full-term baby by quitting smoking. Breastfeeding practices before delivery, during admission and after discharge are also provided to support the health of babies.
“There is more work to be done, but our aim has been and continues to be to do our part in helping reduce Ohio’s prematurity rate for all moms and for our babies to celebrate a healthy first birthday,” Robin said.
In support of prematurity awareness month this month, Akron Children’s is putting a spotlight on the numbers associated with preterm births and how a woman can reduce her risk of having a premature baby.