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County Council learns about infant mortality issues

6/6/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Summit County Council members heard statistics and information on the county’s infant mortality rate (IMR) during their June 3 meeting.

The meeting took place a few days before the June 6 Infant Mortality Summit at the John S. Knight Center, at which more than 400 people were expected to attend, according to Donna Skoda of Summit County Public Health.

Skoda said there have been efforts at the national and state levels to address the issue of infant mortality, which is defined as the death of a child before his or her first birthday. The infant mortality rate is the estimate of the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

In Summit County, the IMR is 7.2, just slightly less than the state’s 7.3, Skoda said. Still, there has been concern that in Summit County there is too much disparity between the number of deaths among non-Hispanic black mothers (an IMR of 10.1) and non-Hispanic white mothers (an IMR of 4.1), she added.

“We need to dive into the data” to examine why African-American babies die more than twice as often as white children in the first year in the Akron area, Skoda said.

According to statistics Skoda provided culled from 10 years of data, the range in the county was from an IMR of 1.5 to 14.3. Central Akron and West Akron had the highest IMRs.

Skoda said the data shows that 484 babies born as Summit County residents died in their first year from 2000 to 2009. In 93 percent of those cases, the death was attributed to a medical reason, with half of those attributed to prematurity.

Among the babies who died for external reasons, the most common reason was by asphyxiation, which can be attributed to the practice of co-sleeping, Skoda said.

Currently, a steering committee which includes Council members Paula Prentice (D-District 8) and Tamela Lee (D-District 5) is working to develop a plan to address the issues specific to Summit County, Skoda said.

She added the summit was to feature parents sharing their stories and presentations from medical and public health professionals on the topic, as well as breakout sessions and a Community Strategy Engagement Panel.

In other business, Council adopted on first reading three resolutions regarding 1.5 percent raises for bargaining employees working in the Medical Examiner and Sheriff’s offices. Jason Dodson, the executive’s chief of staff, said the three contracts are in their third year, which included a wage reopener clause. The raises are in line with those given to other bargaining and nonbargaining employees recently.

Council as a Whole got behind a resolution introduced and voted on during the meeting that expresses support for and urges the Ohio General Assembly to enact Senate Bill 134 to ensure that Ohio port authorities are able to continue their participation in economic development and projects in the state.

Dodson said there is currently an entity created by four counties in Wisconsin that has the authority to do business outside of its home state.

“They have come into Ohio to do financing of projects that Ohio port authorities have already been developing,” Dodson said.

He added that Ohio sens. Frank LaRose (R-District 27) and Tom Sawyer (D-District 28) have sponsored legislation to place restrictions on allowing other financing authorities to do business in Ohio.

Also during the meeting, Council adopted:

  • a resolution declaring it necessary to submit the question of renewing the current Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADM) Board levy to voters and requesting the Fiscal Office to certify the total valuation of county property and the dollar amount the levy would generate. The 2.95-mill levy would be on the November General Election ballot;
  • a resolution that allows Probate Court to participate in a June 27 auction of several items, such as 27 wind-up clocks, roll-top desks and artwork; and
  • several resolutions allowing Probate Court to enter into contracts to replace its decade-plus-old server and computers, which will allow Probate Court to offer e-filing and web-based procedures, as well as accept credit cards in the future.

County Council will meet for committee meetings June 10 at 4:30 p.m. in Council Chambers on the seventh floor of the Ohio Building, 175 S. Main St. Following committees, Council will conduct a regular meeting to adopt legislation before its annual month-long summer break. Council’s meetings will resume July 15.

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