Columbus Turns Its Attention To Infant Mortality

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Nathan and Michelle Hurd recount the loss of their infant son to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Columbus City Council appointed a commission to recommend ways to reduce the city's high rate of infant mortality.(Photo: Tom Borgerding, WOSU News)
Nathan and Michelle Hurd recount the loss of their infant son to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Columbus City Council appointed a commission to recommend ways to reduce the city's high rate of infant mortality.(Photo: Tom Borgerding, WOSU News)

Columbus city, healthcare, and business leaders vow to reduce infant deaths by 40 percent in the next several years. A council-appointed commission will recommend ways to reduce the city’s infant mortality by the middle of next year.

Last year in Columbus, 147 children aged one or younger died before their first birthday. That’s about three deaths per week. But beyond the numbers the emotional toll of a young child’s death is much tougher to comprehend.

“Columbus has lost thousands of children and behind each statistic is a devastated family that will never be the same,” says Nathan Hurd.

Hurd and his wife, Michelle, lost their infant son, William Matthew, four years ago to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The couple chose to speak publicly about their experience during the announcement of Columbus’ effort to reduce infant deaths. Hurd says the couple held their son’s body one last time after an autopsy.

“One of the little plates in his skull had a noticeable indentation. (pause) And you could see what looked like bruising under the make-up my friend worked so meticulously to apply,” Hurd says.

Michelle Hurd adds that participation in the new task force on infant mortality helps her heal.

“It is the healing process of us moving forward but remembering him and helping the other families that can’t do things like this, that can’t come forward and talk about it, even though they want to do something,” Says Michelle Hurd.

“They are supportive for us. Then we are the ones out here in the front working for them and all the other babies that we’ve lost.”

The Hurd’s lost their baby to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome of SIDS. That’s one of three of the leading causes of infant mortality in the city of Columbus. Other factors include premature births and low birth weight. Health Commissioner Doctor, Teresa Long, says when a child is born premature or with a low birth weight, the health risks are enormous.

“Complications that range from breathing and respiratory problems, vision problems, hearing loss and feeding and digestive problems along with conditions such as cerebral palsy,” says Long.

The 22-member commission appointed by city council is expected to have recommendations by the middle of next year on ways to reduce Columbus’ infant mortality rate. Doctor Long says there’s plenty of room for improvement.

“Columbus ranks 36th out of the 50 most populous cities. Our infant mortaility rate are worse than major metropolitan areas. In fact, our rates are more than twice that of New York City.”

So far, the council has spent $160,000 dollars on the effort to combat infant mortality.

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