First Year Cleveland

First Year Cleveland

Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Biomedical Research Building
11000 Cedar Avenue - 4th Floor Cleveland, OH 44106

Phone 216-368-4837
Home The Issue

The infant mortality rate in Cuyahoga County is one of the highest in the United States. Of the 13,871 babies born in Cuyahoga County in 2018, 118 didn’t make it to their first birthday. The numbers are especially concerning for African American babies. 

The Issue.

For more than five decades, Cuyahoga County has had one of the highest infant death rates in the country. In 2015, the county was the worst of 88 counties in Ohio. Of the 14,843 babies born in Cuyahoga County in 2015, 156 babies died before their first birthday, a 28 percent increase from 122 in 2014. The county infant mortality rate was 10.5, a 30 percent increase from 8.1 in 2014, and nearly three times the national average.

Infant mortality is defined as the number of deaths in children under age one and is a key indicator of the overall health of a region. Simply stated, the higher the rates of infant mortality, the less healthy a population is overall. The infant mortality rate is the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

Inequities between white and African American populations are also dramatic and require a sense of urgency, as African American babies die at much higher rates than white infants. In 2018, for instance, the infant mortality rate (IMR) for African Americans was 15.1, while the rate for white babies was 3.8. In addition, African American women at every socioeconomic level have higher rates of infant mortality than white women who have not completed high school.

The Response.

Recognizing that a new approach was needed to successfully reduce infant deaths in our community, grieving parents and families, frontline caregivers, health care systems, civic and government leaders, faith-based organizations, the City of Cleveland, and Cuyahoga County officials joined together with foundations, hospitals, community-based health care providers and nonprofit leaders to launch First Year Cleveland (FYC) in late December 2015 to bring people together to achieve social change.

During the first three years of operation, 2016-2018, FYC has worked to reverse the fifty-year trend by activating system-wide interventions, addressing structural racism and coordinating, aligning and expanding evidence-based services. Through 2018, our community partners, through FYC, have achieved more than a 20 percent reduction in the overall number of infant deaths from 156 deaths in 2015 to 118 deaths in 2018*. Our community also experienced one of the lowest African American infant death rates in decades. But our work is not done, and too many babies are still dying. We must continue to collectively act to accelerate this downward trend and urgently and strategically work together to save all of our babies.

 *Please note: throughout this website, 2018 data is preliminary and unaudited.

Distressing trends that have persisted in our community. In 2018*...


babies were born in Cuyahoga County


of these babies didn't celebrate a first birthday


of these babies were African American from all socioeconomic levels

Our role at First Year Cleveland

Our mission at First Year Cleveland (FYC) is to mobilize the community through partnerships and a unified strategy to reduce infant deaths and racial disparities. Our overarching goal is to reduce Cuyahoga County’s infant mortality rate from 10.5 in 2015 to 6.0 by 2020, with an explicit focus on reducing black infant deaths. 

To accomplish this, we have activated 11 FYC Action Teams as part of our mobilization strategy. These community teams are bringing partners, parents and providers together to execute long-term solutions to address our priority areas and meet or exceed our goals:

  • Reduce racial disparities: Reduce Cuyahoga County's 2017 infant death disparity rate of 7.2 by 50 percent by the end of 2020 and to zero by 2025;
  • Address extreme prematurity: Reduce Cuyahoga County's preterm birth rate from 14.9 percent in 2015 to less than 10 percent by the end of 2020;
  • Eliminate sleep-related deaths: Reduce sleep-related infant deaths from 27 in 2015 to five by the end of 2020.

First Year Cleveland is educating and mobilizing the community to act in order to effectively provide needed services and create a better understanding of how structural racism is affecting pregnant women and their babies. FYC and our 11 Action Teams need you to ACT NOW to ensure that every baby celebrates their first birthday. Please take a moment to learn how you can get involved.

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