A collaborative effort launched in 2014 to reduce the alarmingly high infant mortality rate in Franklin County is paying off, according to a report released March 7.

That effort, called CelebrateOne, has seen a decline in the number of babies dying before their first birthdays, according to CelebrateOne communications coordinator Gail Clendenin.

Out of every 1,000 births in the county in 2018, she wrote, statistics show almost eight babies failed to reach their first birthdays. That's a 23-percent drop from the 9.6 deaths for every 1,000 birthdays in 2011.

That reduction may be worth celebrating, but too many babies still are not living to celebrate a first birthday, a CelebrateOne representative told Northland Community Council members March 5.

De Lena P. Scales, neighborhood intervention manager for CelebrateOne, also said the Northland area is a part of town where more needs to be done.

Scales and Amber C. Jones, project coordinator with CelebrateOne, were among the guest speakers at the monthly meeting.

The Northland area in 2017 recorded the most infant deaths of any of the neighborhoods targeted by a coalition that includes Columbus City Council, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners, the Central Ohio Hospital Council, Columbus Public Health, the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services and several other partners.

"Obviously, no neighborhood wants to be on this list," said Dave Paul, chairman of the NCC's development committee.

He pointed out that the Northland area is large and diverse, with more births and therefore more potential infant deaths than some of the other targeted sections of the city.

"We're looking for the disconnected moms who are not taking advantage of the services," Scales said.

The influx of immigrant and refugee populations to the Northland area in recent years plays a role in its ranking for infant deaths, she said. In some cultures, Scales said, it is a tradition for the entire family to sleep together when a baby comes home, a practice that can potentially lead to fatal suffocation of the infant.

"This is a hard sell," Scales said. "But why take the chance, is what we're telling our moms."

The CelebrateOne North Coalition, which includes the Northland area, has employees from the various population segments in that quarter of the city, according to Jones.

That's important for getting information out about infant safety, she said

"If we don't reflect, we're not received," Jones added.

Ballot issues

NCC representatives also heard from Alex Baker, a community organizer for Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, regarding Issues 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, a $1.03 billion bond package that will be the only issue for city voters on the May 7 primary election ballot. Passage of the measures won't result in increased taxes, Baker said.

Rather, it is voter-approved debt that helps improve and maintain infrastructure, along with a first-time set-aside of $50 million to go toward affordable housing, she added.

In a handout Baker provided, the preliminary project categories covering 2019 to 2023 included, in addition to the affordable housing funding:

* $205 million for safety, health and infrastructure

* $100 million for recreation and parks

* $425 million for public service

* $250 million for public utilities

"It has the potential to do a lot of things for our city, but it also would leave us with a lot of debt," NCC President Alicia Ward said.

She urged residents to educate themselves on the bond issues prior to the May 7 primary.