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Columbus Unveils Plan To Reduce Infant Deaths

Columbus lags other major cities in what is considered a key measure of community health. More infants die before their first birthday in Columbus. Wednesday city leaders unveiled a plan to reduce infant deaths. It's called "Celebrate One." A program to improve a child's chance to celebrate their first birthday. Efforts to reduce Columbus' high infant mortality rate will start in South Linden and the Near East and South sides. Council president Andrew Ginther says Columbus should lower infant deaths by 40 percent in six years and reduce racial disparities. "Quite honestly there are cities that are larger, and poorer, and more diverse that have half the infant mortality rate that we do," says Ginther. In South Linden, a council task force finds 23 of every 1,000 babies born between 2007 and 2011 died before their first birthday. In all of Franklin County the rate was 8.6 deaths per 1,000. Columbus Public Health Commissioner, Doctor Teresa Long identifies two leading causes of the city's high infant mortality rate. "Prematurity, so an infant that is born too early and too small and safe sleep. We know that sleep related infant deaths are the third leading cause of infant deaths in our community," says Doctor Long. Carmen Allen of Community Impact on Bryden Road says young parents often lack critical information about safe sleep practices for infants: placing infants on their back in their own crib. "It's really a problem now. So you wake up and you're child is lifeless and you don't understand what happened. This is something that never hardly ever happened but now it's more prevalent," says Allen. Columbus is expected to spend about one-million dollars next year to reduce infant deaths. Ginther says the city will also seek funds from state and federal governments and from private and non-profit agencies.