Earlier this year, the Ohio House passed a resolution declaring the state’s high infant mortality rate a public health crisis and urged timely action in finding ways to improve it. The infant mortality rate is calculated based on the number of babies that are born but that die before reaching their first birthday. Two northeast Ohio legislators—Reps. Sarah LaTourette and Nickie Antonio—led the way in passing this resolution and have done a great job of raising awareness for this important cause.

Although the most recent numbers in Ohio show a slight decline in the infant mortality rate over the past few years, we still remain 23 percent higher than the national average, currently ranking 47th in the nation, according to the Department of Health. There can be a number of factors that can put children at risk, including preterm birth. While there is not one grand solution that will overcome the problem, it is important that we get to work toward finding ways to fix it.

This week, a newly created bipartisan panel called the Commission on Infant Mortality met for the first time in order to begin addressing the problem. It consists, in part, of a Republican and Democrat member from both the House and Senate, top health officials at both the state and local levels, and some appointees who work for community-based programs that serve pregnant women and new mothers. Representative Stephanie Kunze, of Hilliard, and Senator Shannon Jones, of Springboro, are the co-chairs of the commission.

From a state government standpoint, the commission will be taking a closer look at all of the state services that could be available to help counteract this problem, as well as how those services are funded and their effectiveness. It will also be looking at the problem at a county-by-county level to see what local programs are working and to determine what more can be done in high-rate areas.

This effort builds off of the progress we made in the recently passed state operating budget to identify areas in the state with the highest infant mortality rates and to prioritize resources to those areas. More work remains, but I believe we are taking necessary steps to address the issue that frankly impacts too many Ohio families. Bringing so many different perspectives to the table, in my opinion, improves our abilities to find a comprehensive solution that considers all sides of the problem.

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