Stark County's infant mortality rate dropped in 2018, according to preliminary data from Stark County THRIVE.
Fewer babies are dying in Stark County, according to a preliminary report.
Stark County's infant mortality rate dropped to 6.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2018, according to preliminary data from Stark County THRIVE. That's down significantly from a rate of 9.5 in 2017 and 9 in 2016.
The preliminary numbers, which won't be verified by the Ohio Department of Health until later this year, also show progress in addressing racial disparity in birth outcomes.
Statewide data showed that black infants in Ohio in 2017 were dying at nearly three times the rate of white infants.
Stark County's disparity rate ratio, which compares the infant mortality rate of black and white infants, dropped to 0.9 in 2018, down from 2 in 2017, according to the preliminary data.
Stark County's black infant mortality rate was 5.7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2018, down from 17.5 in 2017. The white infant mortality rate was 6.4 deaths per 1,000 live births, down from 9.5 in 2017.
"We are cautiously optimistic," said Dawn Miller, THRIVE project manager.
Because Stark County's numbers are smaller -- the county has fewer births than larger counties in Ohio -- THRIVE looks to five-year trends to gauge progress, Miller added. "These trends are showing a downward slant. That is very encouraging."
Those five year numbers:Stark County's overall infant mortality rate was 8.2 in 2014, 4.8 in 2015, 9 in 2016, 9.5 in 2017 and (preliminarily) 6.4 in 2018. The black infant mortality rate was 20.3 in 2014, 11 in 2015, 18.9 in 2016, 17.5 in 2017 and 5.7 in 2018. The white infant mortality rate was 8.2 in 2014, 4.8 in 2015, 9 in 2016, 9.5 in 2017 and 6.4 in 2018. The disparity rate ratio was 3 in 2014, 2.6 in 2015, 2.4 in 2016, 2 in 2017 and 0.9 in 2018.
THRIVE (Toward Health Resiliency for Infant Vitality and Equity) was founded in 2014 as a coalition of Stark County agencies, organizations and businesses focused on reducing infant mortality and birth disparities.
"It's a collaboration. We can't do it without partners and funders," she said.
Since its inception, THRIVE has implemented numerous programs throughout the county. That includes the THRIVE Pathways HUB, a data-driven, county-wide system that connects low-income or at-risk pregnant women with needed medical care and social services. The program is designed to find barriers to good health -- factors like a lack of transportation or unsafe housing -- and match people with programs that can help.
At the center of that program is community health workers, trained and licensed people who work in the community one-on-one with pregnant women and new mothers to offer them education, support and help accessing services.
Community health workers are really leading to the drop in infant mortality rates, Miller said.
The THRIVE program has 15 community health workers throughout Stark County working with nine care coordinating agencies. The program has helped more than 400 women, Miller said.
Miller also pointed to programs that work with fathers, including work done by the Stark County Fatherhood Coalition.
"It takes two to make that baby. We want to make sure to support our dads, too," she said. "Whether they're residing in the household or not, we want to make sure they are an important part of a child's life and support mom during the pregnancy."
For more information on THRIVE and how to access services, see their Facebook page at facebook.com/StarkCoTHRIVE or call 234-410-3087.
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