Hamilton Co. releases data on child fatalities

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The Hamilton County Child Fatality Review Team has released its 2009 report.

The team reviews deaths of all Hamilton County residents under the age of 17. The purpose is to prevent child deaths by examining deaths in the aggregate, noting trends and making policy recommendations.

There were 153 child deaths in Hamilton County in 2009, which is nine less than in 2008. Of these deaths, 90 were males and 63 were females, and 58.2 percent of the victims were African American, even though only 31.6 percent of the county's population of children under 18 are African American.

Also released in the report, 72 percent of all child deaths occurred at less than one year of age. The report states that inappropriate sleeping arrangements continues to be a problem among children this age, with as many as nine infants dying from what is believed to be this cause. It includes infants sleeping in places other than cribs, co-bedding with adults, other children or animals or being surrounded by soft bedding, blankets or pillows. This number is half the number presented last year, but county leaders say they will continue to try and prevent these kinds of deaths. Cincinnati Police's Homicide Unit has undertaken a project to help reduce the loss of infant lives because of improper sleeping arrangements, working with social agencies and the media to help educate parents and caregivers.

"The general public needs to gain a better understanding of the tragic consequences that can occur if infants are not put to sleep alone in cribs," said Patty Eber, Child Fatality Review Team chair.

The majority of the deaths (75.8 percent) were from natural causes, while 8.5 percent could not be determined, 5.9 percent were a result of homicides and 5.2 percent were accidents and 4.6 percent were suicides. The number of suicides was the largest it had been since the team started reviewing child deaths 14 years ago. However, the number of child deaths caused by vehicular accidents (1.3 percent) was the second-lowest it had been in the last 10 years.

Among all the deaths, the report reveals that 16 percent of them were preventable, which is when a reasonable intervention probably would have prevented death.

"The tragic statistics and trends identified in this report should serve as a call to action for our region to take seriously the recommendations in this report and do all things necessary to reduce the unacceptably high numbers of infant deaths in our country," said Portune.

According to 2008 statistics, Hamilton County had the highest infant mortality rate (11.1) among Ohio's urban counties, followed by Cuyohoga (10.6) and Franklin (10.6).

"Just as this region has come together with progressive and creative solutions toward reducing homicides such as CIRV we should be devoting the same kind of attention and creativity in reducing child deaths, and especially infant deaths, a high priority were we will not stop until we have reduced those rates to well below national averages," said Todd Portune, a Hamilton County Commissioner and President of Family and Children First Council.