During my first term in the Ohio House of Representatives I have been able to learn of the most pressing issues of our state and other issues that are often overlooked. One of these issues I have been exposed to is infant mortality. Infant mortality is a concerning issue and one we must fight to end for all of the families across our state.

In 2014, 955 Ohio infants died before turning a year old, according to the Ohio Department of Health. This was a decrease from 1,024 in 2013. As you can see, Ohio has made steady progress, but it is still not enough. We must face this issue head on with all we have in order to be successful. I was shocked and alarmed to find out that my home district was facing significant infant mortality.

In Ottawa and Erie counties, between years 2005 and 2014 infant mortality was at a rate of 5.6 for Ottawa and 8.8 for Erie per 1,000 live births. Thirteen infant deaths occurred in 2014 in these counties, but much work still needs to be done. One way we can start to decrease this number is by helping expecting parents care for their future child with better practices.

Recently, under the leadership of my colleague from Hilliard, Ohio, Representative Stephanie Kunze, the Ohio legislature has introduced a plan to combat Ohio’s abysmal infant mortality rates. The Ohio Commission on Infant Mortality’s recommendations fall within four categories; improvements in the collection and sharing of data, building on proven interventions, health system improvements, and addressing social determinants of health.

While the Ohio House can certainly work to improve data collection, health systems and social determinants of health, building upon proven interventions is something that we can work together as a community to address. To achieve this, we must begin to put emphasis on how imperative it is to an infant’s life to maintain safe and healthy practices while caring for a newborn.

Expectant mothers need to be encouraged to sustain healthy and nutritional eating habits, while also taking prenatal vitamins for the baby’s overall health. Additionally, safe sleep practices such as having the baby sleep on their back, and not putting crib bumpers or stuffed animals in the bed with them can reduce the risk of inadvertent oxygen deprivation. Making regular doctor visits and maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle promotes an overall well-being for the baby.

I was upset and found it to be unacceptable when I learned of the high number of infant deaths in our great state. We must increase awareness and help expectant parents prepare in order to save the lives of Ohio’s most vulnerable citizens. My colleagues and I are committed to addressing this issue so that we can ensure every baby in our state is given the best possible chance to celebrate their first birthday, and many more.

I always appreciate your input on this and all state legislative matters. Please feel free to contact my office at (614) 644-6011 or Rep89@ohiohouse.gov.

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