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Despite Ohio's Efforts, More Black Babies Died Last Year

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Health officials say the number of infant deaths in Ohio decreased overall from 2016 to 2017, but racial disparities continued as deaths among black infants increased.

The state recorded 982 infant deaths last year, down from 1,024 the previous year. But the Ohio Department of Health says the number of black infants who died increased by 15, and they died at nearly three times the rate of white infants.

Last year marked the second time that Ohio had fewer than 1,000 infant deaths in a year since the state began recording infant mortality in 1939.

Department director Lance Himes says the data show more babies are reaching their first birthdays, but Ohio needs to eliminate racial disparities in birth outcomes.

Racial gaps in infant mortality have been a years-long issue in Ohio. A January report from the National Center for Health Statistics showed from 2013 to 2015, 13.46 of every 1,000 black babies in Ohio died before their first birthday. That was more than double the rate of white babies, who died at a rate of 5.76 per 1,000 babies.

In the report, the only state with a worse infant mortality rate for black babies was Wisconsin, where 14.28 of every 1,000 babies died in their first year of life.