Toledo, Ohio, has one of the highest infant mortality rates — defined as when a newborn dies before his or her first birthday — in the state, and there’s a clear racial divide: Toledo’s African American infants face a mortality rate triple that of whites.
Toledo saw its highest rate of infant mortality in 2017 while the state saw its second lowest. That spike shocked the community into action, and infusions of cash have increased expectant mothers' access to expanded prenatal screenings, outreach and education services.
The approach was working — the combined efforts of world-class health systems, government agencies and concerned philanthropies caused Toledo’s infant mortality rate to decline, but the disparity remains — African American babies are still three times more likely to die before their first birthday than their white counterparts. And now there is a new threat: the fear caused by the coronavirus pandemic is threatening to undo the progress and put those most in need out of reach.
In this half-hour special report, documentary filmmaker Aaron Martin and WGTE Public Media take viewers into the homes of expectant mothers, the offices of healthcare professionals and the corridors of power to learn why the threat of infant mortality is still hanging over the city, and follow the dedicated scientists, social workers and public health officials on the front line of the battle to make sure every child makes it to his or her first birthday.