State unveils $5 million in funding for infant, maternal health

Credit: NYT

Credit: NYT

State agencies awarded $5 million to 19 community- and faith-based organizations that help support pregnant women and newly-parenting families in an effort to improve infant and maternal health, Gov. Mike DeWine said.

“Giving all Ohioans the best possible start in life truly begins before a child is even born and that means ensuring the child’s family has access to the resources and support they need,” DeWine said.

Locally, $349,800 is earmarked for the Urban Family Development Center to expand its Dad2B Program, which provides fathers with prenatal information, in Montgomery and Franklin counties.

There will also be $349,999 awarded to the statewide organization Baby 1st Network, which provides educational material like safe sleep and breastfeeding information, along with other support for those working to reduce sudden unexpected infant death.

Additional grants are being provided to communities in other counties to begin or expand services aimed at the health of infants and moms, as well as services to support new families up to one year postpartum.

The Ohio Department of Health, in partnership with the Ohio Department of Children and Youth, is funding the grants.

“These grant funds are much needed and will go a long way in supporting and advancing maternal and infant health throughout Ohio,” said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, director of the Ohio Department of Health.

These funds will expand the reach of programs offering information and guidance in areas like prenatal care, breastfeeding, nutrition and stress management, Vanderhoff said, as well as connect families to health and social resources.

“We need strong local partners in order to effectively address our state’s maternal and infant mortality numbers,” said Kara Wente, director of the Ohio Department of Children and Youth. “We must work together at the state and local levels so that more children thrive and reach their first birthday.”

Infant mortality is the death of an infant before their first birthday, and the state is aiming to lower the state’s rate of infant mortality. Ohio infant mortality was 6.9 per 1,000 live births in 2021. The Ohio and national goal is 6.0 or fewer infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

Infant mortality is compounded when taking race into account. In 2021, the infant mortality rate rose to 7.0 from 6.7 in 2020 for all races. The rate of death among Black infants was 14.2 in 2021, 13.6 in 2020, and 14.3 in 2019, according to data from the Ohio Department of Health.

By the numbers

Among all infant deaths, prematurity related conditions were the most common cause of death (28%), according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Prematurity deaths are followed by congenital anomalies (18%) and external injuries (10%). Seven percent (7%) of deaths were due to sudden infant death syndrome.

Black infants died from prematurity-related causes and external injuries at three times the rate of white infants. They died from sudden infant death syndrome at two times the rate of white infants.

One-third of infants who died in 2021 were born before 24 weeks gestation despite only accounting for 0.2% of all live births.

One-fifth (21%) of infants who died in 2021 were born to mothers who reported smoking during the three months prior to pregnancy.

About the Author