Columbus, Ohio Pilots On-Demand Rides for Pregnant Women, Aims To Reduce Infant Mortality

In a bid to reduce infant mortality rates, the city of Columbus, Ohio, will be running a pilot program from June to November of 2019 that will provide on-demand rides for pregnant women. The pilot will include 500 women in the early months of pregnancy and who live in one of the eight Columbus neighborhoods where infant mortality rates are the highest. Participants must be at least 18 years old, in the early phase of their pregnancy, enrolled in Medicaid, and be able to speak and understand English.

The project, known as the Prenatal Trip Assistance program (PTA), will partner with the Ohio Department of Medicaid, medical providers, transportation providers, and others to develop a Web-based platform to link patients with transportation. The system will allow women to book rides, notify healthcare providers when patients are on the way and  will also will verify Medicaid and plan eligibility and schedule the trip. The service will remain available to mothers in the first two months after they give birth.

Franklin County, Ohio, the home of Columbus, has had one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the United States at 8.2 per 1,000 live births from Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2017, up from 7.7 deaths per 1,000 the year before, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics. Health officials have cited access to prenatal medical care as essential to the prevention of preterm births and congenital anomalies, two of the main factors of infant mortality. Stress, which can be abundant in the lives of many poor women who may lack stable jobs, housing, and transportation is also an important driving factor.

The PTA project is part of the transit and transportation program within Smart Columbus – an initiative begun two years ago when the city was named the recipient of a $40 million Department of Transportation Smart City Challenge grant.