CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Cleveland ranks as one of the top cities in the country for infant mortality. But a new task force is trying to change that.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, the Buckeye State ranks 45th out of 50 states in infant mortality and has one of the highest rates of infant mortality among African American babies in the nation.
City leaders, hospitals and non-profit groups are joining together to fight that statistic, saying the problem should be treated like an emergency.
"This is a human problem, and it results in a tremendous amount of suffering people and we're aware of that," said Cleveland City Councilman Kevin Kelley.
Ohio's infant mortality rate is 6.8, meaning nearly seven babies per 1,000 die before they turn one.
In Cuyahoga County, the infant mortality rate jumps to 8.1, and in Cleveland, it's around 13.
"Simply stated, our infant mortality rate isn't just bad. It's not just unacceptable. It's appalling and it's shocking. And it has to shock all of us into action," Kelley said.
The city of Cleveland along with local hospitals and non-profit groups is stepping up. They created a task force called "First Year Cleveland."
Its goal is to lower the number of infant deaths and focus on those who need help the most.
Officials say infants born to African Americans in Ohio are over two times more likely to die before their first birthday than babies who are white.
They're working together to make sure every baby born in Cleveland has a chance at life.
Ohio's infant mortality rate actually went down between 2013 and 2014, but it is still above the national level.
The three leading causes of infant deaths in Ohio are prematurity, sleep-related deaths and birth defects.