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Columbus, OH 43215


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For Immediate Release 
November 18, 2013 

For More Information:
John Ivanic, City Council, (614) 645-6798
Jose Rodriguez, Public Health, (614) 645-6928
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Columbus City Council Announces Infant Mortality Task Force to Develop
Community Plan to Cut Infant Mortality Rate By Nearly 40 Percent


COLUMBUS, OHIO – Today, Columbus City Council President Andrew Ginther was joined by Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Teresa Long and health, civic, and community leaders to announce a high-level task force that will create a community plan to reduce Columbus’ infant mortality rate.


President Ginther with task force co-chairs
Donna James and Michael Fiorile, and
Columbus Public Health Commissioner
Dr. Teresa Long.
“Each week in our community more than three families bury a baby before his or her first birthday. As the nation’s infant mortality rate has decreased, the rates in Ohio and Franklin County have increased. This is unacceptable,” Ginther said. “As our community continues to focus on the educational achievement of our children, we cannot ignore how the first few years of life impact a child’s ability to learn and develop. Our community has the resources and the commitment to create a plan that will ensure that all children thrive.”

On average, three to four babies die each week in Franklin County. The infant mortality rate in Franklin County for 2013 is as high as the national rate from the early 1990s. In addition, the infant mortality rate for black babies is two-and-a-half times that of white babies in Franklin County.

Every year, more than 13 percent of babies born in Franklin County are born too early. Disorders related to premature and low-birth weight are the leading cause of death for infants, but those same disorders cause ongoing challenges for babies who survive. Children born pre-term or of low weight have health care costs that are ten times higher than other children, are more likely to experience persistent illness and health complications (such as cerebral palsy, breathing and respiratory problems, vision and hearing loss, and feeding and digestive issues) and may be more likely to have difficulties learning in school.

The earlier a baby is born, the greater the likelihood that the child will face challenges with school readiness and success because of developmental disabilities and speech and language difficulties, requiring special education.

“Infant mortality rates are a globally acceptable measure of a community’s well-being. Columbus has invested significantly in the health care of pregnant women and their babies, yet we still have a notable twofold gap in mortality rates based on where our families live, learn, work and play. We know we can turn this around and address this crisis,” Long said.

Columbus Public Health will work with Nationwide Children’s Hospital to lead the task force. Members of the task force will include the CEOs from the four major health systems in Columbus, as well as representatives from the business community, parents, education, human service organizations and the faith community.

“Efforts are ongoing around the state to reduce infant mortality rates, and I am so proud to be a part of central Ohio’s efforts,” First Lady of Ohio Karen Kasich and honorary co-chair of the task force said. “Ohio’s children deserve a healthy start. By focusing on the health of mothers and babies, we are not only strengthening families in our cities, we are also making sure we are providing opportunities to those Ohioans who are the most vulnerable.”

Michael Fiorile, president and CEO of Dispatch Printing Companies, and Donna James, managing director of Lardon & Associates will also co-chair the task force.

Other members include: 

  • Dr. Steve Allen, MD, CEO Nationwide Children’s Hospital
  • Judge Laurel Beatty, Franklin County Court of Common Pleas
  • David Blom, President & CEO, OhioHealth
  • Lilleana Cavanaugh, Ohio Commission on Latino Affairs
  • Nichole Dunn, President & CEO, The Women’s Fund of Central OH
  • Alex Fischer, President & CEO, Columbus Partnership
  • Dr. Steve Gabbe, MD, Sr. VP of Health Sciences and CEO, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
  • Dr. Dan Good, Interim Superintendent, Columbus City Schools
  • Anne Harnish, Assistant Director, Ohio Department of Health
  • Eddie Harrell, VP & General Manager, Radio One
  • Michelle Heritage, Executive Director, Community Shelter Board
  • Nathan Hurd, parent and co-founder of
  • Janet E. Jackson, President, United Way
  • Dr. Teresa Long, Health Commissioner, City of Columbus
  • Cathy Lyttle, VP Corporate Communications & Investor Relations, Worthington Industries, Inc.
  • Michelle Mills, Columbus City Council
  • John O’Grady, President, Franklin County Board of Commissioners
  • Mark Real, Founding President,
  • Anthony Trotman, Director, Franklin County Job & Family Services
  • Claus von Zychlin, President & CEO, Mount Carmel

The task force will be responsible for developing a community plan that will cut Columbus’ infant mortality rate in half, with particular emphasis on minority populations. The first meeting of the task force will be in January 2014 and will continue through mid-2014 with eight, half-day sessions. Each meeting of the task force will take a comprehensive approach to the issues that affect infant mortality including health, societal, community and other factors.

About the Columbus Infant Mortality Task Force:

The Columbus Infant Mortality Task Force was formed in November 2013 by City Council President Andrew Ginther. He charged Columbus Public Health and Nationwide Children’s Hospital to lead a task force to reduce the number of infants who die or face ongoing illnesses and disabilities because of challenges in the first year of life. The goal of the task force is to develop a community plan that will reduce the rate of infant mortality in Columbus/Franklin County by nearly 40 percent, from the 2011 benchmark rate of 9.8 infant deaths per 1,000 live births to 6 per 1,000, and cut the racial disparity in half. The task force will be supported by a group of experienced leaders in project management, community engagement and clinical and public health issues.