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More Infants Died In Sleep Incidents Last Year In Hamilton Co. Than Any Point In A Decade

infant sleep
Sven Brandsma

Twenty-one infants in Hamilton County died in sleep-related incidents in 2020, the highest number in a decade. Job and Family Services plans to launch a safe sleep campaign in March.

Interim Director Tim McCartney recently presented the plan to the Board of Commissioners.

"The campaign very much supports the board's agenda of reducing infant mortality but also addressing racism as a public health crisis," McCartney said.

Two-thirds of the sleep-related infant deaths last year were in Black families, mirroring racial disparities in other infant death categories

McCartney says the campaign will share the "ABCs of Safe Sleep:" that infants are safest alone, on their back, and in a crib.

"And importantly, as it relates to the Office of Equity and Inclusion in Hamilton County, 60% of the total spend of the design of the campaign will support African American businesses," McCartney said.

The county is partnering with Cradle Cincinnati on the safe sleep campaign. Director of Community Strategies Dr. Meredith Shockley-Smith says sleep is a cultural conversation for Black women.

"There's a whole thing about what our grandmothers are telling us, what our mothers are telling us, versus what data is telling us," Shockley-Smith said. "[We're] really trying to be mindful that we are efficient and effective in thinking about those disparities and outcomes."

Cradle is working with Black mothers on messaging and partnering with organizations to launch the campaign.

All other categories of infant mortality went down last year.

"We're seeing steep, steep declines in the leading cause of infant death which is extreme pre-term birth," said Cradle Executive Director Ryan Adcock. "We're seeing those declines specifically in the Black community which is reducing racial disparity in this issue."

Cradle Cincinnati plans to release its annual report in April.

Becca Costello grew up in Williamsburg and Batavia (in Clermont County) listening to WVXU. Before joining the WVXU newsroom, she worked in public radio & TV journalism in Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Becca has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including from local chapters of the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and contributed to regional and national Murrow Award winners. Becca has a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Becca's dog Cincy (named for the city they once again call home) is even more anxious than she is.