A new state Commission on Infant Mortality, co-chaired by Sen. Shannon Jones and Rep. Stephanie Kunze, started work last month to identify disparities and develop strategies to reduce the number of Ohio babies who die before their first birthday.
State Medicaid Director John McCarthy told commission members his department is partnering with other state agencies and local communities to target zip codes with the highest mortality rates, starting with Akron. He said the Akron visit revealed many local advocates are not even aware of the infant mortality problem, and lack of communication between local agencies is a major obstacle. He said his team plans to visit all nine of the targeted communities by March 1 and to get financial assistant flowing to local initiatives as soon as possible.
According to statistics from the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. Ohio ranks 45th in overall infant mortality. The state’s rate of infant mortality for black babies (13.57) was second highest nationally for the 39 states where a rate could be calculated. Only Wisconsin (14) and Kansas (14.18) fared worse and were tied for first.