Public Release: 

Planning Researcher Finds Best Neighborhoods Aren't Always Best At Preventing Infant Mortality

University of Cincinnati

CINCINNATI, Ohio -- Christopher Auffrey hopes to save lives by examining death, specifically the deaths of Cincinnati children.

Auffrey, assistant professor of planning at the University of Cincinnati, is researching infant mortality in Cincinnati from 1979 to 1994 in order to point to those areas where factors like race, low-income and low-education rates mean more infant deaths. The focus, however, is not so much on these neighborhoods, nor on those where higher incomes and higher education rates mean low infant mortality, but on those neighborhoods beating the odds.

"The good news is that there are more neighborhoods that are beating the odds than those which, against expectations, have relatively high infant death rates, despite the safeguards of educational and economic stability," said Auffrey who will present his work at two upcoming national conferences. The first is Nov. 6 at the Association for Collegiate Schools of Planning meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, followed by a Nov. 12 presentation at the American Public Health Association meeting in Indianapolis.

Auffrey said the areas doing "something right" despite poverty, illiteracy and the effects of race include portions of Riverside, West Price Hill, Northside, Bond Hill/Roselawn, the East End/Linwood, and Clifton/University Heights and Fairview. According to his research, these areas should have high infant mortality, but they don't. For instance, a Northside section had an average annual infant death rate of 2.5 per 1,000 births, significantly lower than the overall Cincinnati rate of 14.1 per 1,000 births. Even the "worst" of these odds-beating neighborhoods, East End/Linwood, has an average of eight deaths per 1,000 births.

Only neighborhoods in Mt. Adams and Mt. Airy are "doing something wrong," according to Auffrey. These are areas without the usual indicators of high child mortality (poverty, illiteracy, public assistance). "Lower Mt. Adams had a mortality rate of 21.4 per 1,000 births while a portion of Mt. Airy had 28.2 deaths per 1,000 births. This is higher than the average 17.4 deaths per 1,000 births in the District of Columbia which is generally considered the worst metropolitan area in the country," he explained.

Other areas of the city also experienced higher infant mortality rates, but these were all in areas where it would be expected because of socioeconomic and, perhaps, environmental factors. These include:

  • Walnut Hills (28.2)
  • Lower Price Hill (22.6)
  • Mt. Auburn (30.1)
  • Evanston (29.3)
  • South Fairmount (25.1)
  • Corryville (24)
  • West End (29.4)

Within the next six months, Auffrey will more closely study those areas that defy the odds to find out what the odds-beaters are doing right so that their efforts can be applied to other at- risk neighborhoods.

Aiding him in this research are health planning administration graduate assistants Nina Ruparel and Carl Mandley.

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