Health Officials Concerned About Alarming Number Of Infant Deaths In Columbus


UPDATED: Monday November 18, 2013 10:40 PM

There is an alarming problem in Columbus that is stealing the lives of babies before they turn a year old.

Now, the Columbus Public Health Department is going door to door trying to knock it down.

“Columbus actually has double the infant mortality rate of New York City,” said Dr. Teresa Long, Columbus Public Health Commissioner. “On average, three to four children a week die in Columbus before their first birthday. That’s 180 a year, the equivalent of nine kindergarten classes”.

The Health Department is working aggressively to change the infant mortality rate in south Columbus says Long.

According to Long, African American babies are “dying at a three time’s higher rate than white babies in the neighborhood”.

Because of that, the city health department is paying attention to newborns in two South Columbus zip codes: 43206 and 43207.

“It’s so devastating that we’re losing all these new babies. So, we need to get the message out to these new moms,” said Sharon Ritchie, Columbus Public Health Nurse.

Ritchie visits about 20 newborns every week across the city. Sharica Grant’s one-month old son, Jacoby is on Ritchie wellness check list today.

These wellness checks are part of the health department’s effort to track newborns in South Columbus. Health department nurses also educate new mothers on the risks some of the infants face. Unsafe sleeping practices are one of them.

Nurse Ritchie says it is not okay for a baby to sleep in bed with the parents at night. “It actually increases the risk for sudden infant death. You may roll over at night while you’re asleep, not realize that you’ve done that. Or, he might be buried in a soft mattress or one of your blankets that’s on your bed, says Ritchie.”

Part of Ritchie’s job is to also inspect the baby’s sleeping space.

Jacoby’s passed with flying colors - no bumper pads, no blankets, no quilts or stuffed animals. These are all items that could potentially suffocate him.

These are tragedies that the health department calls totally preventable.

Over the next three years, state and local health officials will be working with residents, community leaders and health care providers in South Columbus to find ways to save more babies.

They say what they learn there will be expanded city-wide.

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