Health Officials Concerned Over Franklin County Infant Death Rate


Experts say it's a public health crisis -- more than 12 babies die every month in Franklin County.

Ohio ranks fourth in the nation for the number of newborns dying.

"It was July 31st of 2009," said Nathan Hurd.

It is a day Hurd said he plays over and over again in his mind. His son, Will, was just 82 days old.

Will died that July day, in his crib, as a result of sudden unexplained infant death.

"I think that's part of, the fact that it came so suddenly and so unexpectedly is part of what made it so difficult to deal with," he said.

Hurd is a member of the Greater Columbus Infant Mortality Task Force, which met for the first time on Friday to address the major contributing factors, including poverty, housing, education, food security and safety.

These factors contribute to infant mortality rates that are twice as high as those in New York City.

"As complex as it is, there are cities that there are larger, more diverse and poorer that have half the infant mortality rates that we have," said Columbus City Council President Andrew Ginther. "So we know we can do something about it."

The task force has set a goal: to reduce infant mortality rates by 40 percent in ten years and cut race disparity in half.

"About 25 percent of our births are to African-American moms, yet they represent 50 percent of our infant deaths," said Columbus Public Health Asst. Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts. "So that's a problem."

Public health officials say out of 1,000 live births locally, eight will die, compared with six nationally.

"You see one person standing here, but in reality, if you look at the data, you're talking about hundreds and hundreds per year over tens of years," said Hurd. "It's a staggering number."
The task force says an important first step will be to study what other communities have successfully done to reduce their rates... and that includes improving maternal and child health in urban neighborhoods.