YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Youngstown’s infant mortality rate is a problem. Ohio’s rate is higher than the national average. Locally, Mercy Health has programs to help bring this rate down to keep mom and baby healthy.
Infant mortality describes the rate at which babies are dying before their first birthdays. It’s calculated by the number of deaths per 1,000 live births.
The national average is about 5.8, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mahoning County is around 6 — slightly above the national average.
Ohio is around 7.4.
Black babies die at a much higher rate than white babies — about two to three times the rate. Lack of access to maternity care is a huge contributing factor.
The City of Youngstown is a maternity desert, meaning there’s limited access to health care for expecting moms. If you live in the city, you may have to travel outside of Youngstown to the suburbs for maternity care.
Mercy Health is one of the few places offering prenatal care in Youngstown. It’s fighting back against Ohio’s high infant mortality rate with comprehensive maternity program that follows mother and baby through their first year.
CenteringPregnancy programs offer support for moms and can supply Pack ‘n Plays, car seats and other things newborns might need.
“Empowering moms, which is a social support network for women to come together to discuss topics that they all share, but in the process, they develop friendships with others thinking they are in the boat by themselves but they really aren’t,” said Dee Traylor, with Mercy Health.
The fatherhood support program helps new dads be informed. Some are offered in person and others are online.
Data from these programs is submitted to a larger statewide database to help bring down the state’s infant mortality rate.
After the baby is born, staff members are there, waiting to help new moms.
“Our staff are going to be trained as doulas,” said April Young, with CenteringPregnancy. “I’ve been a doula for 12 years. When our moms go into labor, if they don’t have birthing support, we are there with them. We meet our moms after they give birth, regardless of whether they had birthing support or not. We’re helping make sure that they latch, and then if there’s any barriers right then and there immediately after delivery, we are able to address those things.”
Mercy Health also offers free transportation to appointments.