Partnership aims to lower infant mortality in Columbus

February 19, 2016

Our Director of Community Strategies spoke with the Columbus Dispatch about a new grant that will support our Connector Corps Program.

By Lori Kurtzman

The Columbus Dispatch

February 18, 2016

In a few months, 24 workers will fan out across the city in hopes of tackling the high rates of infant mortality that plague their neighborhoods.

The group will be the first of 72 workers trained at Ohio State University’s College of Nursing to help connect new mothers, pregnant women and women of childbearing age to health and community services.

“We recognize that for some women who are disconnected from services, that messenger is really important,” said Erika Clark Jones, director of community strategies for CelebrateOne, a community initiative to reduce infant deaths.

The training program, a partnership between Columbus Public Health and the United Health Foundation, will be funded by a $1.7 million grant from the latter, community leaders announced Thursday.

The money supports CelebrateOne, which aims to reduce the area’s infant mortality by 40 percent and cut racial disparity in half by 2020.

Those efforts seem to be paying off. Preliminary figures from Columbus Public Health show that Franklin County’s overall infant-mortality rate dropped from 8.4 deaths per 1,000 lives births in 2014 to 7.6 in 2015. But that’s still higher than the state’s most recent rate of 6.8 in 2014.

And black babies continue to fare worse than white babies in Franklin County, dying at more than twice the rate — 10.8 deaths per 1,000 live births compared to 4.7, according to preliminary 2015 figures. In 2014, those rates were 15.1 and 5.8, respectively.

Ads went out in December seeking community health workers who live in eight neighborhoods singled out for high infant death rates. Local community-based agencies interviewed candidates and selected the workers they will ultimately employ part-time, Jones said.

Training for the first group of 24 — a collection of diverse, mostly female workers — begins this months and will last 14 weeks. Ultimately, they’ll return to their neighborhoods to hold community meetings and knock on doors, Jones said, hoping to connect women to care they might not know is out there.

lkurtzman@dispatch.com

@LoriKurtzman