Monday, Sep 24, 2018
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Lucas County must tackle infant mortality rate


Statistics shown during a community meeting at Nexus Healthcare in Toledo to end infant mortality.

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Organizers of a Thursday night forum on Lucas County’s shockingly high infant mortality rates have a fairly simple premise: Your ZIP code should not determine your health.

The forum, at 6 p.m. at Bowsher High School, aims to get community input on strategies to reduce the county’s stubbornly high rate of infant mortality, which is particularly bad for black children.

RELATED: Forum to focus on Toledo-area's infant mortality rate 

In 2015, the infant mortality rate for black babies was 16.8 per 1,000 live births, compared with 1.6 for white babies, according to the Ohio Department of Health. That gap closed some in 2016, but black babies still fare worse.

Dr. Arthur James, a physician and researcher at Ohio State University who will participate in the forum, said the 2015 figure is the worst disparity he has ever seen.

Lucas County has tried several programs aimed at reducing the infant mortality rate in recent years. But with the deadly stat stubbornly still too high, it is time for leaders across many fields in the region to make this a priority.

Newborns and their families need urgent, practical action so that more of them reach their first birthdays as healthy children. At the end of this forum, what benchmarks can elected leaders, health care professionals, and social services agencies set for a month from now? Or, a year from now?

The causes of infant mortality are not mysterious. Other communities have tackled this issue and Lucas County must do so too.

EDITORIAL: Save our babies

The Ohio Hospital Association emphasizes several strategies for preventing infant deaths: Teaching safe sleeping practices, providing access to quality health care for mothers and babies, encouraging breastfeeding, and reducing premature births by eliminating elective deliveries before 39 weeks.

The fact is that your neighborhood has a lot to do with your health, so this region needs to improve all neighborhoods as part of our effort to improve public health in Lucas County and the region as a whole.

Reducing infant mortality in Lucas County is really a basic test of our humanity.

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