As Ohioans, we are blessed to live in such a great state that is often the leader in the nation for many admirable initiatives and accomplishments. However, one thing that our state has lacked in is preventing infant mortality.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, nearly 1,000 infants died in 2014 alone before reaching their first birthday, with the Cincinnati-Dayton area being one of Ohio’s “hotspots” for this saddening statistic. Currently, Ohio ranks 45th in the nation based on lowest infant mortality rates, a number that makes it abundantly clear that we must act quickly to address this problem.

Recently, the Ohio Commission of Infant Mortality released its recommendations for steps that the Ohio legislature can take in order to reduce infant mortality across our state. These recommendations fall within four major categories: improving the collection and sharing of data, building on proven interventions, improving health systems and addressing social determinants of health.

Several local initiatives have begun to spread throughout individual counties, cities and communities. For example, Franklin County has launched a public campaign known as “Celebrate One,” which educates parents on the importance of doctor visits and safe sleep practices. By encouraging the sharing of data between local infant mortality organizations, we can come together to better address the problem.

Additional recommendations put forth by the Commission of Infant Mortality include training hospital and NICU staff, social workers, child care educators and others about safe sleep practices so they can better assist their patients.  Safe sleep practices include not using baby bumpers for the newborn’s crib, or not placing stuffed animals in the crib for them to sleep with, because both can lead to suffocation.

While the report of the commission included dozens of recommendations for reducing infant mortality, it is important to note that the Ohio House recently passed legislation allocating $250,000 to local community health centers to help educate new and expectant mothers on the risks of infant mortality. Along with the continued funding of women’s health clinics in the biennial budget, this money can go a long way toward benefitting mothers and their precious bundles of joy.

Every newborn across our state deserves the best chance possible to celebrate not only their first birthday, but many more after that. As a state, we must do better to address this heartbreaking statistic, but I am confident that we will. I, for one, will continue to remain engaged in this issue at the Ohio Statehouse and will fight to help more Ohio babies “celebrate one.”

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