Infant Mortality and Why It Matters


Infant Mortality Over Time
(Figure 1)

Infant Mortality Race Gap Over Time
(Figure 2)

OHFA's most recent Ohio Housing Needs Assessment (HNA) found that in comparison to the national average rate over time, Ohio's infant mortality was decreasing but spiked dramatically as of recent years leading the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics to list Ohio among the top 10 states with the highest infant mortality rates in the nation. Why is this a concern? The infant mortality rate in a state or local community reflects the social, economic, and environmental conditions in which children and families live. The recent spike in Ohio's infant mortality rate suggests that the conditions in which Ohioans live could be declining, which may include the lack of affordable stable housing.

As shown in Figure 1, the infant mortality in Ohio (6.42) was higher than the U.S. national rate (5.42). In 2021, that rate increased in Ohio to seven deaths per 1,000 live births while continuing to decrease at the national level. We also see that the infant mortality rate for children born to Black mothers (13.91) is almost three times higher than the rate for children born to white mothers (5.24).

The increasing concern regarding the infant mortality racial gap has pushed researchers to study other factors that affect infant mortality outside of healthcare access. According to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO), factors, such as poverty, discrimination, and environmental stressors, can impact maternal health and prenatal/post-natal care. The Ohio Department of Health provides a list of modifiable factors that influence Ohio communities and contribute to negative effects on maternal health. Inequities in access to education on proper nutrition and prenatal care, transportation, employment, and stable housing impact the schools Ohioans attend, the areas and conditions in which people work, and places where people live.

Organizations throughout Ohio are working toward improving birth outcomes by providing resources and housing in communities that have high infant mortality rates. In April 2022 and in the recent state budget, the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) received funding to support the Healthy Beginnings at Home (HBAH) program that focuses on improving birth outcomes and reducing infant mortality by providing stable housing for low-income families. Other programs, such as the Ohio Department of Medicaid's Comprehensive Maternal Care (CMC) and The Ohio State University's Mom2B, create pathways to additional resources and services to support women and families who have historically lacked access. OHFA continues to work on providing research in the HNA to policymakers and collaborate with organizations who understand that housing can contribute to better health outcomes.