COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A central Ohio agency focused on the raising infant mortality rate in Franklin County is sounding the alarm, warning parents, grandparents, and anyone willing to listen that there has been an increase in preventable infant death.

Frances Russ with CelebrateOne said any infant death is too many. For a while, the agency said it saw the number of infant deaths in Franklin County slowing down or decreasing, but new data reveals something changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These deaths are preventable, and we need to let our community know these deaths are preventable,” Russ said.

CelebrateOne was started in 2014 with the goal of reducing infant mortality, and with the public’s help over the span of several years, Russ said the data revealed deaths were reduced.

“Between 2019 and 2021, we were really on a great stride,” she said. “We were on a downward trend when it came to infant sleep-related deaths.”

In 2019, there were 15; 2020 and 2021 each saw 17 infant sleep-related deaths, but the data show something shifted the following year.

“Up until quarter three of 2022, we had 24 sleep-related infant deaths,” Russ said.

The agency is still waiting on data for the remainder of 2022.

“We were on a downward trend and we just think it’s time to sound the alarm and it’s time to educate the community and help us prevent these deaths,” Russ said.

Russ said her team will continue to reiterate the ABCs of safe sleep.

“Alone, on their back, and in an empty crib and as we always say, nothing but baby in the crib,” she said.

The agency also works to distribute sleep sacks for newborns at hospitals to reduce the chances of other objects in a baby’s crib, but she said it takes a community equipped with the correct information for something to change.

“It takes all of us,” Russ said. “It takes mom, dad, grandmas, friends to bring these numbers down. to help out our family and to support them.”

For more information and resources, visit the CelebrateOne website.