A guest column by Senator Bill Beagle
Most babies grow to live full and long lives, but infant mortality is a tragedy that too many Ohio families face. Infant mortality, which refers to any baby that passes away before their first birthday, is a horror that affects more people in Ohio than many developed nations.
Currently, Ohio ranks 48th out of 50 states for the highest rate of infant mortality. The leading causes for infant mortality are serious birth complications including premature births or birth defects, and infants that were victims of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or other injuries. While my colleagues and I in the Ohio Senate are working hard to find solutions, we also need to work together as a community to increase awareness and prevent infant mortality in our state.
In 2012, 1,045 Ohio babies died before their first birthday. Those children would have filled 16 school buses and over 40 kindergarten classrooms. It is hard to fathom the 1,045 lives that were cut too short, the 1,045 boys and girls that would have contributed to our communities and lived the Ohio dream.
The Ohio Senate is considering several bills that, if passed, would create safe sleep educational programs, establish a commission to gather valuable information regarding infant mortality in Ohio, begin a program that will focus efforts to improve birth outcomes, and include postpartum care in the Medicaid healthcare system. In addition, Ohio now requires a more formal process for law enforcement to investigate cases involving victims of SIDS.
In Ohio, 14% of SIDS cases, which is the third leading cause of infant mortality, can be attributed to unsafe sleep practices. To combat this, the Ohio Department of Health has created a statewide education campaign to increase awareness of the ABC’s of safe sleep. As a parent you often hear conflicting information about the safest way for your baby to sleep; this campaign works to streamline that information and reach parents with infants.
The ABC’s of safe sleep are that a baby should always sleep Alone, on his or her Back and in a Crib. These simple principles can save lives. Through these and other educational and prevention efforts, we can celebrate more lives in Ohio.
My four years in the Ohio Senate have been focused on making Ohio a great place to live, work and raise a family. It is clear that Ohio’s infant mortality rate is a public health crisis and more can be done to provide resources and education to protect our littlest ones.
More information about safe sleep practices can be found at www.SafeSleep.Ohio.gov or you can contact my office at (614) 466-6247. Together we can make sure more of our youngest Ohioans celebrate their first birthdays.
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