Infant mortality rates in Cincinnati and Hamilton County are almost double those of the rest of the nation, according to a report released by Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
In Hamilton County the infant mortality rate is 17.1 per 1,000 live births for African American women while for white women the rate is 6.2 per 1,000 live births.
Some health experts describe the infant mortality rates in the city and county as embarrassingly high especially in neighborhoods like Over the Rhine and Price Hill.
Cynthia Smith, Program Director with the Women and Infant Vitality Network, says there are a number of reasons why the rate is so high among African American women. "We have to look at all the conditions that women are facing in life today, stress, violence in the neighborhoods, lack of nutrition, lack of access to healthy foods. Black women in this country experience a high level of stress, experience a degree of racism and we actually have a higher infant mortality rate among African American women that defies the difference in socio-economic status, education marital status....it really does not matter that much," said Smith.
Donna Phelps with Healthy Beginnings, a non-profit organization which promotes pre-natal care, says a number of expectant mothers aren't as healthy as they need to be. "A lot of them come in for late term care. We have moms come in as late as 38 weeks for their pre-natal care and they deliver at 40...so early pre-natal care. We know that if we can get a mom in here for six months or more of care we can bring that rate of low birth weight babies down to 4 percent," said Phelps.
Cincinnati Health Commissioner Noble Maseru says getting proper care for expectant mothers early on can go a long way to reduce infant mortality. "Individuals who have adequate care coordination meaning pre-natal care, post-partum care and quality care at the actual point of delivery," said Maseru.
Kim Pickens with The Christ Hospital says many mothers choose to deliver their babies early which can lead to problems later on. "Kids who are born premature tend to have premature children. It is sort of a self sustaining system and that's probably why we haven't had a lot of effectiveness toward it yet," said Pickens.
A program called Healthy Moms and Babes has a van that acts as a mobile clinic going to various neighborhoods around Cincinnati teaching expectant mothers about good pre-natal care and parenting.