Infant Mortality

The cloud of COVID-19 is especially heavy for expectant parents. As part of our Informed Communities Series on Infant Mortality, WKSU brings you insights from Northeast Ohio doctors and researchers on how to stay safe and minimize stress during pregnancy.

A photo of THRIVE unloading supplies for their dropoff.

With COVID-19 straining public health care, Stark County is taking a practical approach to help families vulnerable to infant mortality. The THRIVE program has shown significant progress in reducing the racial disparity that, statewide, reveals Black babies continue to die before their first birthdays at twice the rate of white babies. Now, in this time of the pandemic, community health workers are delivering tools to help families stay safer.        

A photo of Re'Ona O'Neal's ultrasound.

COVID-19 disproportionately impacts black families, causing a wide range of concerns among people already facing racial unrest, bias in health care, and an infant mortality rate at least twice the rate of white infants statewide. 

A photo of a pregnant woman sitting.

Greater Akron’s Full Term First Birthday is encouraging black pregnant women to be especially vigilant to avoid contracting COVID-19.

Very little is known about the impact of the virus on pregnancy or infants.

If you are grieving from the loss of an infant or pregnancy, you are not alone. There is hope and help in Northeast Ohio, particularly for African-American parents, who are, unfortunately, more likely to experience this type of suffering. As part of our Informed Communities’ focus on infant mortality, WKSU introduces people and groups standing by to help you.


screenshot of opening of informed communities video
Informed Communities

Infant mortality experts in Northeast Ohio are urging black families to become empowered about their healthcare, especially during pregnancy. As part of our informed communities reporting on infant mortality, we hear why it is important to advocate for yourself in the doctor’s office – and how to do that.

A photo of Cheryl Martin holding a picture of her son, Colin Martin.

A mom who understands the pain of losing an infant shares her grief to help families in Cuyahoga County, where black babies are nearly four times less likely to survive to their first birthdays as white babies.

Bias in healthcare may have contributed to the death of her baby.

A father with an infant

Health experts are encouraging Summit County parents to follow safe sleep guidelines after a large increase in the number of sleep-related, infant deaths.

The County used to see an average of seven such deaths per year, going back to 2013. In 2019 that number doubled to 14 and, so far, 2020 shows no signs of improvement.

screenshot from the video Behind the Black Curtain

Chronic, maternal  stress is one of the reasons Black babies in Ohio are more than twice as likely not to survive to their first birthdays as white babies. WKSU provides insight through the powerful reflection of a North Canton grandmother.


Toxic: A Black Woman's Story / WKSU

Being black in America makes it more likely that you will be diagnosed with conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. It even lessens the chance that you will draw your first breath or make it to your first birthday.

In WKSU's continuing series on infant mortality, maternal stress is highlighted as one of the biggest risks to black babies surviving. 

A photo of the Centering Pregnancy Group

Summit County is channeling another two-and-a-half million dollars toward the centering groups that advocates say are one key to saving babies’ lives. The issue disproportionately impacts Blacks, who have an infant mortality rate more than twice as high as those of non-Hispanic whites. We visit one of the circles of expectant parents receiving extra support.


"I want you to use your thighs to stand up, and we still got our Kegels tight. Come on. Stand up.”



A group of advocates working on education, health care, trauma prevention and early intervention for young children has launched a new campaign to encourage investing in programs earlier than ever before. It's aimed at the more than 545,000 kids three and younger who are living in Ohio – half in poverty.


Ohio Infant Mortality Continues to Decline, Gains by Race Remain Uneven

Feb 26, 2020
A photo of an infant's foot

Ohio’s infant mortality rate continued its slow but steady decline in 2018, driven largely by falling death rates for white babies. The rate of infant death in Ohio’s black community, however, remains stubbornly high.

In Ohio, 938 infants died before reaching a first birthday in 2018, down from 982 the year before. The state’s rate of infant death, calculated by the number of deaths among live-born babies per 1,000 births, was 6.9 in 2018. The rate has fallen by a little more than 1 percent a year for the past decade.

a photo of route 8 with sign

Here are your morning headlines for Wednesday, Feb. 26:

Lorain County's five-year average infant morality rate in 2018 was eight deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2011, it was more than twice that.

“21.7 [per 1,000 live births] was our five-year rolling average, which is a pretty high rate," said the county's health commissioner Dave Covell. "Our average rate among white babies was 7.2, so you can see there's a huge discrepancy.”

Preliminary data show the infant mortality rate has dropped for every demographic in Cuyahoga County in 2019 except white babies, for which it increased slightly. The overall rate in 2019 (not counting December) was 7.75 per 1,000 live births, compared to 8.65 in 2018.

Although the African American infant mortality rate dropped from 15.49 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2018 down to 13.97 in 2019, Cuyahoga County Board of Health statistician Richard Stacklin said black babies are still more than 3.5 times more likely to die than white babies.

Stock image of a blood pressure screening
Chompoo Suriyo / SHUTTERSTOCK

A study found that hospitals around Ohio invested more than $6 billion in community issues. These are programs that take health and wellness outside the walls of a hospital. 

The Ohio Hospital Association says the increased spending on community benefit programs shows there's a need for hospitals to invest more in preventative efforts and other social needs in their neighborhoods.

The OHA’s John Palmer says these programs can prevent more costly hospital visits.

a photo of Portman and Trump

Here are your morning headlines for Wednesday, Dec. 11:

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

Here are your morning headlines:

Summit County Ups Fight Against Infant Mortality

Nov 27, 2019
Ohio 10-year map of infant mortality
Ohio Department of Health

Summit County is expanding its programs that prevent infant mortality with a nearly $2.5 million state grant. Summit County Public Health is working with 10 other organizations to provide support for new and expecting mothers.

Full Term First Birthday Greater Akron was started by Mayor Dan Horrigan two years ago to assist mothers by providing support groups, counseling, and economic and legal aid. The grant from the Ohio Department of Medicaid will also expand aid for housing.


Here are your morning headlines for Monday, Nov. 18:

a photo of the bedroom in the Zalika House

An effort in Akron to reduce the high infant mortality rate is expanding to include a house where new moms can go for respite. 

Crystal Jones describes the bedroom in a small, city-owned house on Akron’s westside. "We’re going to do safe sleep demonstrations over there, pack-n-plays, a little reading nook.” 

A photo of a baby

Senator Sherrod Brown is pushing for the reauthorization of a national program aimed at reducing infant mortality rates. The Healthy Start Program provides free and low cost medical care for mothers and their children.

Brown says the program also works to reduce racial disparities when it comes to infant mortality rates. African-American babies are three times more likely to die than white infants in Ohio.

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Here are your morning headlines for Tuesday, Oct. 22:

Ohio’s First Lady, Fran DeWine, wants to bring a program to Cuyahoga County that could help reduce the number of premature births and increase a baby’s chance of celebrating its first birthday.

Moms2B is a Columbus-based program that provides weekly education and support to high-risk pregnant women.