Columbus Early Learning Centers Joins Fight Against Infant Mortality

On average 3 families per week lose an infant in Franklin County, and babies born to African American families are dying at twice the rate of white babies. These statistics are grim, and the city of Columbus is taking notice.

To work towards a brighter future for the youngest in our city, in June 2014, the Greater Columbus Infant Mortality Task Force ended its 6-month process with the release of eight recommendations to reduce the community’s alarming infant mortality rate by 40 percent and cut the racial health disparity gap in half by 2020.

CelebrateOne was created in November 2014 to carry out the Task Force’s recommendations and ensure Franklin County meets its ambitious goal.

Columbus Early Learning Centers (CELC), a high-quality early childhood education provider in the PACT geography, joined the fight against infant mortality last year. With funds from the City of Columbus’ CelebrateOne Initiative, CELC began the CelebrateOne intervention on the Near East Side, now known as the Cause for Joy program. Cause for Joy is an infant mortality prevention mentorship program centered around the experiences of the mother before and after giving birth. Through the program, 12 pregnant women from the Near East Side were paired with mentors to begin to work through the challenges faced by African American mothers and mothers-to-be living in poverty in the Near East.

“This program has been instrumental in identifying some of the root causes of infant mortality, such as home sanitation conditions, sleep environments, and health practices of the mother during and after pregnancy, said Dr. Gina Ginn, executive director of CELC. “The next challenge, though, will be working with community organizations to work to remedy these issues within homes, and connecting new and expecting mothers to health programs like smoking cessation, and mental health services.”  

The mentorship program officially ends in June, but CELC will not be giving up the fight to prevent the deaths of infants in the community.

“We are continuing to work with our community partners to bring resources into the community. If there is one thing we have learned in this program, it is that there must be trust established before women feel comfortable venturing outside of their homes for services available to them. Transportation to services is also a huge barrier for women in this community,” Ginn said. “There is still much to be done to help women and babies in the Near East Neighborhood.”

– Contributed by: Gina Ginn
Executive Director, Columbus Early Learning Centers