The two leading candidates running to be the next Ohio governor both pledged to make early childhood education and health care a top priority of their administration.
“They are going to be a priority because I say they’re a priority. It starts from the top,” said Republican Mike DeWine.
Democrat Richard Cordray said investments made in early childhood pay dividends down the road for all of Ohio.
Cordray and DeWine each appeared at the Vote for Ohio Kids Leadership Forum, which brought together 700 business, healthcare and education leaders.
Vote for Ohio Kids is using research and public pressure to get government leaders to focus resources on vulnerable children from infancy through age 5, said Shannon Jones, a co-founder of the forum and a former state senator.
Cordray pledged to: scale up pre-school programs, address Ohio’s high infant mortality rate, protect Medicaid expansion and make sure Medicaid beefs up pre-natal care and preventative health, enforce mental health parity laws that require insurers cover behavioral and physical health issues on equal grounds and add mental health services in schools.
Related: State’s record of enforcing mental health insurance mandate questioned
DeWine pledged to: increase access to pre-school programs, expand prenatal and post-partum home visits for at-risk moms, protect Medicaid expansion, add mental health services in schools, improve the foster care system and address childhood lead poisoning.
Ohio lags the nation when it comes to key measurements on child health, according to a new report from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. Ohio kids experience higher rates of hunger, hospital admissions for asthma and infant mortality, HPIO said. The state ranks in the bottom half of states when it comes to overall child health metrics, HPIO said.
Likewise, just 40 percent of Ohio children enter kindergarten ready to learn and the state ranks 46th for kids experiencing childhood trauma and 48th for child immunizations, the Vote for Ohio Kids group reports.
Related: Lawmakers seek changes as school vaccination rates remain low
Related: Montgomery County provides more money to battle its ‘horrible’ infant mortality rate
Vote for Ohio Kids argues that providing high-quality early childhood services to kids under age 5 yields a return on investment of up to 13 percent because the children are less likely to be held back in school, be reliant on welfare and engage in criminal behavior.
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