West Side News

Infant Mortality Task Force

Recommendations made to help reduce infant deaths

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After six months of meetings and sifting through data, the Greater Columbus Infant Mortality Task Force adopted eight recommendations aimed at helping babies live past their first birthday.

The task force, which met June 25 at Columbus Public Health, laid out a plan that would significantly reduce the local infant mortality rate by 2020.

Officials say it's a somber statistic: Three babies die in Franklin County every week, about 150 a year.

"I know we all believe that number is unacceptable," said Andy Ginther, president of Columbus City Council and a member of the task force.

Columbus has eight "hot spots," where the infant mortality rate is significantly higher than other neighborhoods.

Ginther said it's not just about quality of health care, but quality of life.

"The fact is it's not the same for everybody," he said.

The recommendations cover a wide swath of medical and social interventions, such as reducing maternal and household smoking, which is a leading cause of preventable infant mortality.

The report also called for improving women's health.

In the report, the task force noted half of all pregnancies are unplanned and 14 percent are not "safely spaced," meaning the mother has not had time to adequately recover from her most recent pregnancy.

Additional recommendations also called for improving prenatal health care, ensuring clinical quality for labor and delivery, and improving reproductive health planning.

Columbus Public Health and the state already have put into place one of the action items: promoting infant safe sleep.

Task force members highlighted plans for immediate involvement, such as engaging and mobilizing neighborhood-level initiatives and aligning resources to improve social and economic conditions, especially in high-risk neighborhoods.

Moving forward, officials will issue an "infant mortality report card," form an executive committee to oversee plan implementation and look at data-driven performance improvements.

"All of us have a role to play in this," said Dr. Art James, an obstetrician and pediatrician at Ohio State University and Nationwide Children's Hospital.

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