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Overall infant mortality rate drops in Ohio, racial disparity increases, report finds

Black babies are dying before their first birthday in Ohio at an even greater rate — nearly three times that of white infants — even though the state's overall infant mortality rate was unchanged last year (Source: “Despite years of efforts to combat infant mortality in Ohio, racial disparity increases,” Columbus Dispatch, Dec. 17).

The data released on Thursday in a report by the Ohio Department of Health show that racial disparities are getting worse, despite years of efforts to close that gap and reduce infant mortality.

The report prompted Gov. Mike DeWine to announce the formation of a new task force charged with developing a plan to reduce infant mortality and eliminate the racial disparity by 2030.

While the state reported that the 929 babies who died before their first birthday in 2019 (down slightly from 938 a year earlier), the state's 6.9 infant mortality rate — the number of babies who die before their first birthday per 1,000 live births — was unchanged because fewer babies were born last year.

Among black babies, the infant mortality rate increased, though, to 14.3, up from 13.9 a year earlier, according to the report. That's nearly three times the 5.1 infant mortality rate for white babies.