Mar 20, 2023 - News

Infant mortality issues persist in Cleveland

A mother holds her baby in front of a window in the shadows.

Children are a bright light in the world. Photo: Yadira PEREZ / AFP

Despite years of regional efforts to curb the staggering number of local infant deaths, racial disparities persist, with Black babies in Cleveland more than twice as likely as white babies to die in their first year.

Driving the news: The MetroHealth System is trying to raise awareness about the infant and maternal mortality crisis with a free screening of the Hulu documentary "Aftershock" tonight.

Why it matters: Cleveland's overall infant mortality rate in 2021 was 10.5 per 1,000 live births; the rate for Black infants was 14.4, and for white infants it was 6.3, per

What they're saying: Heather Rice, a nurse practitioner and professor at Cleveland State University whose research has focused on maternal health and mortality among African American women, told Axios the chronic stress of mothers is a leading driver of the infant mortality crisis.

  • "This affects all Black women, regardless of their social and economic status," she said. "Typically as your finances improve, so does your health. But with the maternal health crisis, we see these disparities across the board."

The details: Rice will speak on a panel following the screening, alongside a New York City doula and family members of characters in the film.

  • The screening is at 5:50pm at Huntington Convention Center downtown. Doors open at 4:30pm.

What's next: MetroHealth, under new CEO Airica Steed, wants to be at the forefront of the conversation about solutions to the crisis.

  • "We as a health system will seek to be a center for new medical practices, innovations, educational activities and community coordination that can help ensure all mothers have access to high-quality care throughout their pregnancies and that infants have all the support they need to grow and thrive," she said in a statement.

The bottom line: "There's no reason we should have these outcomes in a country with this many resources," Rice said.


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