Wednesday, March 24, 1999

Infants living to see first birthday


Tristate mortality rates down

BY MARK CURNUTTE
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Infant mortality rates are dropping in Greater Cincinnati, in part because Children's Hospital Medical Center is sending neonatologists to more community hospitals.

        The rate, 7.5 deaths per 1,000 live births in eight-county Greater Cincinnati in 1997, is down from 8.3 in 1996, according to a Cincinnati Enquirer analysisas part of the continuing “Everybody's Children” series.

        The decrease for 1997, the most recent year available, corresponds with implementation of the outreach program by Children's Division of Neonatology.

        “Before then, a small group of pediatricians provided high-risk coverage at some of the hospitals,” said Dr. Jim Greenberg, one of 22 Children's Hospital neonatologists who care for premature babies. “We felt it was important to be available where babies were being born.”

        Children's neonatologists are available around the clock for at-risk births at these hospitals: Bethesda Oak, Bethesda North, Mercy Anderson, Mercy Fairfield (Butler County), Christ Hospital, Franciscan Hospital Mount Airy Campus, St. Elizabeth South, University and Good Samaritan.

        Children's neonatologists had previously been available only at University. Hospitals individually began contracting for their services in 1996.

        In Ohio in 1997, 209 infants died less than one hour after birth; that's 18 percent of the state's 1,183 infant deaths that year, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

        Another 306 infants (26 percent) died between one hour and 23 hours after birth. That's 515 infants (44 percent) who died within the first 23 hours of life.

        The local infant mortality rate is coming down as well, Dr. Greenberg said, because obstetricians are more consistently assigning high-risk pregnancies to the two hospitals with the most sophisticated neonatal ICUs, University and Good Samaritan.

        Since 1993, three more children out of every 2,000 births are living to their first birthdays in Hamilton County, according to Ohio Department of Health figures. That's about 18 children a year who would have died in years past in Hamilton County, where the rate has dropped from 10.9 to 9.4.

        Regionally, including Ohio's Butler, Clermont and Warren counties, and Kentucky's Boone, Campbell the Kenton counties, and Dearborn County in Indiana, the infant mortality rate also has decreased by 1.5 deaths per 1,000 births since 1993 (9.0 to 7.5).

        The reduction means about 39 Tristate children, who would have died in the past are living past age 1. Overall, Ohio's infant mortality rate is 7.8, 1,183 deaths during the first year of life out of 151,389 live births.

        The national infant mortality rate is 7.1 deaths for every 1,000 live births.

        Health professionals say the reduction is also the result of efforts to increase access to prenatal care and improve the diets and decrease smoking among expectant mothers.

Butler, Dearborn counties show increased mortality rates



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