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Social Determinants of Birth Outcomes in Ohio

September 8, 2017 @ 9:00 am - 10:30 am


This paper follows up on a report published by The Center for Community Solutions in November, 2016, Birth Outcomes in Ohio, 2010-2014. We examine demographic and clinical correlates of low birth weight and prematurity among births in Ohio, which have been identified as leading risk factors for infant mortality. Over 800,000 Ohio birth records from 2010 to 2015 were included in this analysis.  Through logistic regression, we examine the effect of several independent variables on low birth weight and prematurity, while controlling for all other variables. Age, race, education, smoking, and marital status are important factors in explaining differences in birth outcomes.

Our key findings were that birth mothers over 35, African American, smokers, or not finishing high school were factors that increased risk for delivering prematurity and having a baby with low birth weight, even when other indicators are held constant. Receiving WIC (Women, Infants, Children) benefits, being married, and being covered by private insurance are protective factors which reduce the likelihood of having a low birth weight baby or delivering prematurely.

In our analysis, indicators relating to the social determinants of health had a stronger effect on birth outcomes than the clinically related factor of beginning prenatal care during the first trimester. Unfortunately, these variables are some of the most difficult to address.  Therefore, initiatives seeking to reduce infant mortality by reducing prematurity and low birth weight should address these disparities, if they are to be successful.


Joseph G. Ahern

Fellow, Applied Research

On the staff of The Center for Community Solutions since 1985, Joe Ahern has more than 30 years’ experience in survey research and data analysis. He has acquired extensive knowledge of U.S. Census, vital statistics, and other community data resources. In carrying out his analyses, Mr. Ahern draws on his expertise in using SAS, SPSS, and SUDAAN statistical software and ArcGIS geographic information systems software.

Using these software packages, Mr. Ahern has analyzed data from the 1998, 2004, and 2008 Ohio Family Health Surveys and the 2001 Cuyahoga Family Health Survey. He was lead analyst for a report on racial and ethnic disparities using the 2008 data. In 2011 and again in 2014, he contributed to the Northeast Ohio Regional Impact and Outcomes (NEO-RIO) reports.

Mr. Ahern’s other recent Community Solutions projects include a demographic profile of Lakewood, Ohio (2012); a needs assessment for the Cuyahoga County Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board (2011); and Workforce Development Indicators (2008, and updated in 2014 and 2016).  Mr. Ahern also provides technical and data analysis support for other CCS research and policy projects, including Age-Friendly Cleveland (2015) and Age-Friendly Columbus (2016).

In 2011, the National Association of Planning Councils selected Mr. Ahern for the Judith Rothbaum Award honoring excellence in using social indicators for community action.

Mr. Ahern holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Cleveland State University.


The Center for Community Solutions is a nonprofit, non-partisan think tank focused on solutions to health, social, and economic issues.

Updated: November, 2016


September 8, 2017
9:00 am - 10:30 am


Joseph G. Ahern, Fellow, Applied Research, The Center for Community Solutions


MetroHealth Medical Center, Rammelkamp Research Bldg., Conf. Room R219
2500 Metrohealth Drive
Cleveland, OH 44109 United States
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