CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Cincinnati's City Council held a public hearing Tuesday to discuss the alarming infant mortality rates in the region.
Over the past five years, 543 babies have died in Hamilton County, according to data collected by Cradle Cincinnati. That means for every 1,000 births in Cincinnati there have been 12.4 infant deaths - twice the national average.
"The infant mortality rates here in Cincinnati mirror that of third-world nations," said Councilmember Wendell Young at the hearing. Young is a co-chair of Cradle Cincinnati, a partnership advocating for healthy pregnancies and babies in the area.
Cincinnati is home to leading medical providers, including nationally-ranked Children's Hospital, but Young says those institutions alone cannot fill the infant mortality gap.
"There is no silver bullet that will solve this issue, but by working together there is a silver buckshot," a presenter explained. Cradle Cincinnati was formed to tackle the issue as a partnership that includes city and county officials, Cincinnati Children's Hospital, UC Health and all local maternity hospital units.
Council previously voted to put $250,000 towards Cradle Cincinnati, but representatives say $5.6 million is needed each year to fill the funding gap and make a difference in the numbers.
Leaders say more outreach efforts are needed to prevent the deaths and are using data and prevention tips to spread the word to the community.
Inequality plays a large factor in infant mortality, according to Cradle Cincinnati, with African American infants in Ohio dying before their first birthday at twice the rate of white infants.
Cradle Cincinnati points to 'the three S's' to prevent deaths.
Spacing: Enough time between pregnancies. Women with pregnancies spaced less than 18 months apart are 368% more likely to have an infant death, research shows.
Smoking: Smoking increases the likelihood of premature birth. 70 percent of Hamilton County infant deaths in 2013 were reportedly impacted by pre term birth.
Sleeping: Officials say safer sleep practices can reduce infant mortality rates and that babies should sleep alone, on their backs and in a crib. 16 percent of Hamilton County infant deaths were impacted by unsafe sleep in 2013.
Hamilton County sees 9.9 infant deaths per 1,000 births. The national average is 6.1.