Columbus plans to use prepaid transit cards to fight high infant death rates

This information provided by Smart Cities Council Compassionate Cities.
Mon, 2016-04-04 14:05 -- Compassionate C...

Preliminary 2015 numbers from Columbus Public Health show an overall infant mortality rate of 7.6 per 1,000 live births in Franklin County. That's higher than the state of Ohio's most recent rate of 6.8 in 2014, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Statistics also indicate black babies are dying at twice the rate of white babies.

The figures are actually an improvement over 2014, but officials say it's still too high. In fact, the Dispatch says in January alone 15 babies died in the county; 13 before they were a month old.

A new effort to improve mobility
Columbus has tried a number of initiatives in recent years to curb the high infant death rates occurring in its poorest neighborhoods. The latest plan: Giving residents prepaid transit cards so they can more easily access health services.

The idea is to offer residents prepaid transit cards they can use to get on a bus or call an Uber for easy access to healthcare.

The transit cards were an integral piece of the city's application for a U.S. Department of Transportation Smart City Challenge grant, Greenwire reports. Last month Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that Columbus is one of seven city finalists for what could amount to a $50 million grant. The other six finalists are Austin, Denver, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Portland and San Francisco.

Transportation officials say winner of the grant, which will be announced in June, could become the country’s first city to fully integrate innovative technologies -- self-driving cars, connected vehicles and smart sensors, for example -- into their transportation network. 

Serving the under-served
Columbus was not alone in promoting transportation as a way to help low-income communities access health services, apply for jobs, etc. The DOT request for proposals called for ways to use innovative technologies to "reduce congestion, keep travelers safe, protect the environment, respond to climate change, connect underserved communities and support economic vitality."

In Columbus, that means making mobility easier for low-income residents.

The city's Deputy Development Director Rory McGuiness told Greenwire that one of the biggest challenges they have in poor neighborhoods is that if people have a tough time getting around they probably won't go in for prenatal care or doctor appointments. "We need to make every option available to them, because our infant death statistics are not acceptable," McGuiness said.

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This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

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