A few years ago I was in the Lincoln Theatre for a community meeting to discuss racial disparities in issues like infant mortality. I asked to go early on the agenda because it was also my daughter’s 3rd birthday.
As I left the Lincoln Theatre, I realized that 150 moms and dads in Columbus would never get to celebrate their son or daughter’s first birthday, let alone their 3rd. I decided right then that his was an issue the City would address immediately and aggressively.
I believe our city’s infant mortality rate is not consistent with our values as a community. We are a great city, but we cannot be all we can be if our families do not have the ability to give our youngest residents an opportunity for a healthy start in life. We can do better and we must do better.
That is why, in late 2013, I announced a countywide task force to study the social determinants of maternal health and infant mortality. The Greater Columbus Infant Mortality Taskforce worked for six months. What we’ve learned through the taskforce reinforces my passion for this issue. Columbus’ infant mortality rate is alarmingly high, more than twice that of New York City, with African-American babies dying at two-and-a-half times the rate of white babies.
Today, the community is working together under Celebrate One, the program to implement task force initiatives in eight infant mortality hotspots that experience the highest number of infant deaths.
Celebrate One will work to link women to pre and postnatal care and focus on non-health related factors that impact infant mortality, such as jobs, education, housing, and neighborhood safety to improve birth outcomes.
I’m excited to report that those in the healthcare field have called the goals of Celebrate One some of the boldest in the nation – to cut our infant mortality rate 40% by 2020 and cut the racial disparity in half.
I know this is a big goal, but I also know the city of Columbus. We come together in critical times– and I am confident that together we can all help more families celebrate more first birthdays across our great city.
For more information on Celebrate One and programs to reduce the infant mortality rate in Columbus, go to gcinfantmortality.org
Andrew J. Ginther currently serves as the a president of Columbus City Council. He is a candidate for mayor of Columbus.