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Health & Science

Akron Takes a Big Step Forward In Efforts To Combat Infant Mortality

Ohio 10-year map of infant mortality
Ohio Department of Health

Healthcare and community leaders in Akron today signed an agreement to work to reduce infant mortality, particularly among African-American babies.

The movement was launched by Mayor Dan Horrigan and is called “Full Term, First Birthday,” since premature births are the leading cause of infant mortality in Akron.

Terry Albanese, the mayor’s assistant for education, health and families, says things like stress can lead to premature births, and the increase in the past several years could be linked to political and economic issues ranging from police shootings to the great recession.

“It puts everyone on high alert. It makes everyone question and wonder. And especially minorities that are going to be more affected by this. Some of the worries that people have in other communities – you don’t need to have those in Akron, because Akron won’t stand for those kinds of issues.”

Albanese adds that the city will be applying for Medicaid grants for drugs and other medical methods to prevent premature births.

“Women have access to the long-acting, reversible contraceptive -- known as LARC -- so that they can space their babies, so they can reduce the risk of prematurity, by spacing them at least 18 months apart.”

Albanese adds that structural racism also plays a role in the much higher African-American infant mortality rate, and that city leaders will participate in a program to evaluate how effectively people from different backgrounds interact.

Ohio ranks fifth-worse in the nation in overall infant mortality, and the worst for African-American infants.