“The biggest one at the top of the list we shared was really the health of moms and babies,” said Jessica Salem, executive director for the Center for Health Equity at Dayton Children’s. “Overall, I think there’s been a lot of news about Dayton’s infant mortality rate.”
The top five health concerns from respondents in the survey include:
- The health of moms and babies: Accessible postpartum care, support for mothers, and emotional support for parents were the top noted needs.
- Children’s access to health care: Participants noted the need for care that was accessible at more flexible times of the day, such as for working parents.
- Children’s emotional well-being: Many people mentioned the difficulty in finding therapists for their children.
- Community conditions: There is a great need for more available housing, parks, safe places to walk and play, grocery stores, and transportation.
- Chronic disease: Conditions, such as asthma, could better be controlled by improving food and medical access for families.
Dayton Children’s does a health assessment every three years, and this was the first time the health of moms and babies was at the top of the list, Salem said. In 2020, the focus was health and functional status, such as in relation to childhood obesity and chronic illnesses. For the 2014 health assessment, childhood obesity was also the first priority and mental health was next.
“I think it shows that there’s a lot of work to be done to make sure moms and babies feel supported,” Salem said.
Dayton Children’s uses the data to see what they can do as a hospital system to address the issues most concerning people in the community or advocate for certain solutions.
“Many of the issues that are identified are not just solely the responsibility of a hospital, but there’s a role for us,” Salem said.
For the health of infants and mothers, Dayton Children’s is promoting breastfeeding and breastfeeding for longer amounts of time. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first six months, and then continuing breastfeeding while introducing appropriate complementary foods until your child is 12 months old or older, the CDC says.
Currently in Ohio, approximately 42.7% of moms are doing exclusive breastfeeding at three months and approximately 50.5% of mothers are doing any kind of breastfeeding at six months, Dayton Children’s says.
Breastfeeding can lessen a baby’s chances of diarrhea, ear infections, and bacterial meningitis, or make symptoms less severe, Dayton Children’s says. Breastfeeding also may protect children from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), diabetes, obesity, and asthma, according to the hospital system.
The hospital system is also addressing teen pregnancy, making sure teen moms get access to the right services right away. In this region, Clark County has the highest teen birth rate of 32 teen births per 1,000 girls ages 15-19, and Warren County is at the lowest with a rate of nine births per 1,000 teen girls ages 15-19, according to Dayton Children’s. Montgomery County is at 25 births per 1,000 teen girls ages 15-19
Teen birth rate per 1,000 female population ages 15-19
Dayton Children’s is also making sure they are working with adult hospitals to see what they can learn from each other from between when a mom delivers a baby to when then making sure that there’s doctor’s appointments that are scheduled for that baby, Salem said.
“We can be advocates for certain issues or we can actually deliver services, it just depends on what the issue is,” Salem said. They are advocates for child care, and they also encourage parents to schedule regular well child visits.
Health care options at flexible hours for working parents would also help improve access to medical care, Salem said.
“A survey like this shows I think the need to continue to remind people why these things are important, and it helps to set some of our strategies in those areas,” Salem said.