Local health expert on state team to fight racial disparity in infant mortality rate

Local News

Governor Mike DeWine has a new team to look into the problem and there's one local member on it

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Too many babies in Ohio are dying before their first birthday. The state wants to find out why and correct it.

Governor Mike DeWine has a new team to look into the problem and there’s one local member on it.

Youngstown Health Commissioner Erin Bishop is on the governor’s infant mortality task force, and it has one goal for families with newborns or expecting one.

“How can we make you, make sure that your babies reach their first birthdays,” Bishop said.

In the last decade, Ohio hit a peak in 2011 with 1,086 infant deaths, according to the 2019 Ohio Infant Mortality Report. The lowest number was the most recent, 929 in 2019. But one problem still exists.

“We’re seeing infant mortality in the white population decrease which is great, but we’re still not seeing the African American population decrease,” Bishop said.

The governor calls that statistic tragic. The infant mortality rate for black babies is nearly three times higher than the rate for white babies.

Mahoning County’s infant mortality rate is the third highest in the state. Over nine children (9.5) are dying before their first birthday, for every 1,000 children born. It’s 5 children (5.1) in Trumbull County.

Bishop wants to focus on the social determinates of health, such as housing, transportation, and access to healthy foods. She believes the state has succeeded with the coronavirus vaccine. Now, it’s time to put that energy to use on another public health crisis.

“Why can’t we do this to infant mortality? We can, if we just work together, work hard,” Bishop said.

The task force will develop action plans to present to families with a pregnant woman and tell them how to succeed.

“It is something that is fixable, and we just need to put all our effort into doing that,” DeWine said.

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