The Community Post

Health Department discusses new facility improvemen­ts A look into infant mortality within Auglaize County

- By BRENT MELTON Staff Reporter By BRENT MELTON Staff Reporter

The Auglaize County Health Department held its monthly meeting on Tuesday morning. There were numerous topics covered from vaccinatio­n clinic updates, to improvemen­ts to their facility.

The first order of business was a nursing update by Director of Nursing Jessica Whetstone.

“We’re seeing new CMH (Children with Medical Handicaps) providers coming to the Lima area. its a good opportunit­y for clients to not have to travel as far to bigger cities, which can be a hardship,” said Whetstone. She said that they conducted 11 immunizati­on clinics in May that totaled 292 services.

“We attended a kindergart­en screening and did 34 vision and 34 immunizati­on reviews,” said Whetstone. She said that for the month of May there were a total of 35 COVID cases for the month. “We’re continuing to see that decline.”

Whetstone said that a that their Blood Pressure Program was a success.

“We partnered with the Council on Aging and were able to do 15 checks for them,” said

Whetstone. She said that the Summer Vaccinatio­n event to get kids vaccinated before school was a also success.

“We gave 80 doses of vaccine that day. A couple of first time visitors to the Auglaize Health Department and some from Allen, Mercer, and even Miami Counties,” said Whetstone.

Next Emergency Response Coordinato­r, and Epidemiolo­gist Natalie Hicks talked about infant mortality within the county.

“We’ve been reviewing strategies for fighting infant mortality. I’ve taken a really deep dive into the county’s data,” said Hicks. That deep dive involved statists about causes for infant mortality, contributi­ng factors, and a whole host of facts and figures.

“We have programs in the county that are proven to reduce infant mortality,” said Hicks. She outlined that those programs included WIC (Women Infants and Children), Healthy Families Auglaize County, Cribs for Kids and The Baby and Me Tobacco Free.

Next was a report by the Fiscal Officer Tammy Wiford. She reported that total revenue for May was $85,453.37, expenses were $175,322.44, and that the department has a cash balance of $901,455.98, all of which the board approved. The board then approved to pay vendors bills totaling $73,563.23, travel expenses of $1,883.81.

“This was a lower than last years,” said Wiford of the travel expenses.

The Auglaize County Health Commission­er Oliver Fisher was next with his portion of the meeting.

“We’ve finally got it, so we’re all very happy about it”, said Fisher of the Auglaize County Health Department receiving accreditat­ion form the Public Health Accreditat­ion Board. He explained that they’ll have to give reports about their progress, and that accreditat­ion is good for five years.

“I think we’re in a good place to move forward and continue to work on it and go through re-accreditat­ion,” said Fisher.

He then reported that there was a memorandum of understand­ing between Auglaize, Allen and Mercer Counties about epidemiolo­gy.

“We’ve done it each year. It’s an agreement that if one of the other

The Auglaize County Health Department held their monthly meeting on Tuesday which featured a talk about infant mortality in Auglaize County. The talk was given by the Auglaize County Health Department’s Emergency Response Coordinato­r/Epidemiolo­gist Natalie Hicks.

“Myself and our nurses have been reviewing data at the state and national level, and reviewing strategies for fighting infant mortality,” said Hicks. That look into infant mortality rates in Auglaize County stemmed from a question at their District Advisory Council meeting in March.

Hicks started the presentati­on by talking bout the Healthy People 2030 Initiative.

“It’s a comprehens­ive list of nation wide strategies released by the Surgeon General. These public health objectives are really big,” said Hicks. She explained that the federal goals for the program filter down to the state level, and then to the local health department. Infant mortality is defined as time from birth to the age of one year old.

Some of those strategies for reducing infant mortality include breast feeding, a safe sleeping environmen­t, placing infants on their backs to sleep, and reducing preterm birth. Another factor was the time between pregnancie­s.

“Anything less than 18 months apart, you’re more likely to have a preterm birth,” said Hicks. She said that cigarette smoking and a lack of adequate pre-natal care can also be contributi­ng factors. “Currently, Ohio is tenth highest in the US for infant mortality.”

Ohio being tenth highest in the United States is concerning, but Hicks noted that Ohio used to rank higher.

“It’s a very big issue in Ohio, and its something we see in our state health planning,” said Hicks. She said that the state has a goal of reducing preterm births by focusing on tobacco cessation and by working on pre-natal care coordinati­on, early child home visitation programs, and paid family leave.

For Auglaize County the rate of infant mortality was 7.6 per 1,000 live births.

“Looking at that, we don’t have 1000 live births per year, so you have to extrapolat­e the data,” explained Hicks. She said that the leading causes of death in the county were congenital anomalies at 38 percent, premature births and related conditions at 27 percent, and pre-natal infections at 8.3 percent. There were several other categories including obstetric, other infections, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and ‘other’ which would include things like accidents, diseases, etc.

Hicks said that the the ages that experience the highest infant mortality rates are mothers between the ages of 20-24.

“A lot of that, looking at social determinan­ts of health, access to care, resources, care in general, is probably not anything to do with genetics,” said Hicks. She said that the access to care, resources, and understand­ing what is safe during pregnancy are the largest factors.

“The 18-19 age group only account for three percent of births, but over eight percent of deaths. I was pretty shocked to see that when I ran the data,” said Hicks

For the duration of her talk, Hicks made clear that the data presented was in the most general way possible, so as to not identify families who had lost infants. Hicks finished here talk by highlighti­ng that the health department has programs available for mothers. Those programs include Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Healthy Families Auglaize County, Cribs for Kids, and The Baby and Me Tobacco Free.

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