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Birth Defects Increasing Challenge For Infant Mortality Rate

Cradle Cincinnati
A slide from the Cradle Cincinnati report.

Cradle Cincinnati reports preterm and sleep-related infant deaths are decreasing. However, in its annual rate study released Tuesday, Executive Director Ryan Adcock says an increase in fatal birth defects is troubling.Read the report below.

"To be honest, a whole lot of the birth defects are just unknowns," says Adcock. "So it's this category that we want to track closely but, really, when we think about what our community collectively can do around infant mortality, it's really preterm birth-related deaths and sleep-related deaths that we think are actionable. That's where we're seeing a lot of progress."

In 2016, 25 babies died because of birth defects. The report suggests the national average was 13.

The report finds fatal heart defects are the leading type of birth defect in Hamilton County.

Adcock says uncontrolled diabetes in pregnant women could be one factor in the increase in heart-related birth defects.

The Ohio Department of Health says women can reduce the risk of birth defects by taking 400 micrograms of folic acid, getting a Rubella vaccination, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding alcohol.

Overall, the number and rate of deaths has remained fairly steady for the last five years with a twenty percent drop compared to the previous five years.

According to Adcock, the county no longer ranks in the bottom ten nationwide, but there's still work to be done.

"We're still in the worst 30, so when you start out in such a bad place it can be discouraging to look and see we're still near the bottom of that list. I think we need to have the appropriate balance of being really encouraged that just about everything we're working on is moving in the right direction and really driven and appropriately frustrated by the pace of change and that it's not quicker."

He continues, "When we benchmark ourselves with other cities in Ohio that are struggling with this same thing, we're seeing quicker change here. We're seeing more action here. We're seeing statistical significance in the movement that we're seeing around preterm births and sleep-related deaths, which is really encouraging because it tells us that it's real. But there's so much left to do."

Racial Disparity

One trend cited in the report is that fewer African American babies died in 2016. The report says African American infant deaths fell 24 percent over the past five years, with the county recording its fewest number (48) on record last year.

However, Cradle Cincinnati says the racial disparity is still high. "Nationally and locally African American babies are 2.5 times as likely to die before their first birthday," it says in a release.

Cradle Cincinnati 2017 Annual Report Every Baby Every Day by WVXU News on Scribd

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.