Here’s what local agencies are doing to better protect babies in Butler County

Feb 06, 2018
  • By Wayne Baker
  • Staff Writer
Mary Lockhart, Charman Hill, Nicholas Hill, Grace Eshun, Tiara Thomas and Sjone Hall, along with their children, took part n a PRIM Community Action Team event outside Primary Health Solutions Health Center in Middletown, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017. Th PRIM team - consisting of local community leaders, Pastors, advocates and concerned citizens are working together to combat Infant Mortality. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

The Ohio Department of Medicaid has awarded the Butler County agencies grant money that will help fund efforts aimed at improving birth outcomes and reducing the racial and ethnic disparities in infant mortality.

As part of the State of Ohio’s efforts to help more Ohio babies reach their first birthdays, the Ohio Department of Medicaid and its five contracted managed care plans have awarded $1,473,538 to community initiatives in Butler County aimed at reducing infant mortality.

Butler County ranks No. 9 in urban areas in Ohio in infant mortality rate, and Ohio has one of the worst rankings in the United States, said Jenny Bailer, county health commissioner.

“That’s not where you want to be,” she said.

MORE: Butler County infant mortality rate shows improvement

While infant mortality has been decreasing overall in Ohio since 1990, both Butler County’s and Ohio’s rates are above the Healthy People 2020 national goal of 6.0 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

“In 2017, the infant mortality rate decreased for both black and white babies in Butler County. Even though this is good news, there is still work to do,” Bailer said.

She added that the infant mortality rate for non-Hispanic black babies in Butler County was 12.1 per 1000 births, more than 3 times higher than the non-Hispanic white rate of 3.3 per 1000.

The Butler County non-Hispanic white infant mortality rate was lower than Ohio’s overall rate and lower than the Healthy People 2020 goal for the United States.

The Butler County Educational Service Center will receive $56,000 from the grant funding to address the issue of infant mortality in Butler County.

MORE: Middletown hospital launches program to combat infant mortality

Efforts from the agency will go towards improving birth outcomes and reduce the racial and ethnic disparities in infant mortality, according to Suzanne Prescott, BCESC Early Childhood Programs director.

“This grant will allow the Butler County Educational Service Center to get services to our pregnant African-American moms and prevent infant mortality. In Butler County, Ohio, black babies are dying at double the rate as white babies. Not only is this a crisis for Butler County, but also seven other counties in Ohio,” Prescott said.

She added, “we know we are not reaching this population of pregnant African-American women, and this grant allows the BCESC to now hire a community health worker to be in their community and do outreach to these women. It’s really about the first year of life and making sure these black babies reach their first birthday.”

MORE: New Butler County health commissioner targets infant deaths, smoking

Several local agencies have joined the fight to combat the issue locally and initiatives have been developed to engage mothers and families with education and resources to help their babies survive past their first birthday.

MORE: Middletown’s Families First expand efforts to fight infant mortality

The initiatives, which range from smoking cessation to centering pregnancy programs, primarily deal with high risk for African-American women who are pregnant, since black babies are dying at twice the rate of white babies before the age of 1 in the county, according to data from the Ohio Department of Health.

“We are working to save babies in our community here in Middletown,” explained Ruth Kelly of Families First, a Middletown agency that received $182,000 in Medicaid funding to provide education classes and support for women that are already mothers and pregnant. “Our goal is to see babies live and survive through their first-year-of-birth. This has been a big issue in the community and most people in our community don’t understand that are babies don’t live past their first year so we want to save them.”

Atrium Medical Center launched a program recently called CenteringPregnancy which will bring as many as 10 pregnant women together for prenatal care with 10 scheduled visits lasting 90 minutes.

MORE: Lower Butler County infant mortality rate goal of new program

The group health care model combines health assessment, interactive learning and community building to deliver better health outcomes and a better care experience for patients and their providers, officials said.

“The one and only goal is a healthy mom and a healthy baby,” said Dr. Rhonda Washington, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Atrium Medical Center and medical director of CenteringPregnancy.

The effort, she added, will be a vital tool in the fight against infant mortality in Middletown, which has contributed to Butler County’s poor ranking statewide.