© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Health, Science & Environment

High infant mortality rates in Franklin County bringing more focus to racial disparities

African American baby

The infant mortality rate remains stubbornly high in Franklin County with 140 babies dying every year before their first birthday. CelebrateOne’s new Executive Director, Danielle Tong, who was hired in July, is focusing on racial disparities to lower infant deaths.

African American babies are twice as likely to die than white babies, according to data from the Franklin County Child Fatality Review and Ohio Department of Health Vital Statistics. CelebrateOne was created nine years ago to address the issue.

I do think programming needs to be focused on minorities, specifically Black mothers, where we know the rate is higher there than everywhere else,” says Tong.

Tong says infant deaths had dropped in Columbus and Franklin County between 2016 to 2020, from 11.7 per 1,000 live births in Columbus to 9.9 deaths. That number rose again to 11.3 in 2022.

Tong blames the COVID-19 pandemic, which began in 2020.

“The pandemic caused a lot of havoc across the health care system,” says Tong. “And that remains true even in the space of infant maternal health. And so, we started to see some of those spikes happen again.”

But she’s optimistic progress can happen again.

“I think it is a requirement of connecting the various resources that currently exist where they may be operating independently and desperately, but providing some continuity of care across those various organizations,” says Tong.

Tong says reinforcing the ABCs of infant care: infants should always sleep alone on their backs, and in their own cribs, bassinets or play yards, because doing so can save lives.

“We're focusing in the area of safe sleep where we previously saw a bit of a spike there,” says Tong. “And we're also definitely still looking to make sure that we are providing adequate access to care for families as they navigate their pregnancies.”

Tong says she plans to work with experts in the field and unify efforts on saving more babies.

“We know that racism is a part of that conversation,” says Tong. “But how that actually shows itself across the continuum of a birthing parent is something that we are still working through.”

Tong says CelebrateOne is working with several community partners on developing better housing and food stability for mothers-to-be who may face hurdles in their pregnancies.

Click on the below link to read CelebrateOne's 2021 annual report:

Health, Science & Environment CelebrateOneInfant Mortality
Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.