Columbus' initiative to lower infant mortality rates, Celebrate One, has reached its five-year anniversary.
The city created CelebrateOne with the goal of geting more babies to their first birthdays. In 2014, when the program began, the infant mortality rate stood at 8.4 deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2019, that number was down to 6.9.
Maureen Stapleton, executive director of CelebrateOne, says they worried the pandemic would increase infant mortality.
"We did see in early 2020 a spike in infant mortality," Stapleton says. "We are pleased to report that spike was just that – a spike, and it’s back down to the 6.9 number that we ended out 2019 with."
Between March and August, 66 babies died this year, compared to 58 deaths during the same period last year.
The number of premature births have also gone down since the pandemic's start, which in turn kept infant mortality numbers lower.
"Whether that's associated with different viruses that mothers aren't being impacted by, or different stress factors, we really don't know the answer," says Tim Robinson, CEO of Nationwide Children’s Hospital. "But one of the silver linings is we've seen that down. Birth rates are down a little bit as well."
Looking ahead, Stapleton says they will focus on addressing racism as a health crisis, and its impact on birth outcomes – Black babies are still dying at more than 2.5 times the rate of non-Hispanic white babies.