AKRON, OH (WOIO) - The infant mortality rate in parts of Akron is double the national average and the city has developed a strategic plan to reduce that rate.
The numbers are alarming.
"African-American babies accounted for almost 77 percent of all deaths yet the African-American population only makes up about 30 percent of our population," said Donna Skoda, Summit County Public Health Commissioner.
Which is why the city of Akron is working to reduce that infant mortality rate with a new initiative: "Full Term First Birthday Akron."
"Any pregnant mom at risk of premature birth at any of our health care institutions will be connected to a community health care worker within 24-48 hours. The community health worker will assist her in navigating the maze of needed services," Mayor Daniel Horrigan said.
The mayor's office shared data that showed preterm birth and infant death rates for African-American babies was nearly double that of white babies in all Akron zip codes.
The city has partnered with elected officials, community leaders, religious clergy and health professional to increase the number of babies born.
Last year Summit County led the state in preterm birth rates.
Partners signed the Memorandum of Understanding.
They're hoping to make a difference.
"We care about those who are at risk in our city, it carries the unstated message that neither ethnicity nor socio-economic status nor any other factor will keep us from treating everyone as human beings of value," said Bishop Joey Johnson.
The mayor went on to say he wants all babies to have hope, health and a happy first birthday in Akron.