Senate OKs bill aimed at reducing infant deaths

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A new proposal passed the Ohio Senate Wednesday designed to boost the health of newborn babies in the state.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Sen. Shannon Jones has long championed efforts to address ‘stain on Ohio.’

The Ohio Senate on Wednesday voted 29-1 for a bill to address infant mortality by prohibiting the sale of crib bumper pads, stepping up safe sleep education for young families, offering women long-acting reversible contraceptive devices after delivery and taking other steps.

The bill, long championed by Warren County Republican State Sen. Shannon Jones, who is a co-sponsor, offers a menu of strategies to reduce the number of Ohio babies that die before their first birthday.

Ohio’s infant mortality rate is alarming: 7.4 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2013 and 6.8 in 2014. That equates to 955 Ohio babies not making it to their first birthday in 2014.

The rate for African-American babies was 13.8 in 2013 and 14.3 in 2014 — roughly double the overall rate. Ohio ranked third worst in the nation in 2013 for infant mortality for African-American babies.

Jones, R-Springboro, called the numbers “a tragic stain on this great state.”

The bill calls for:

  • Improving data collection and sharing;
  • Giving pregnant women priority for housing assistance and authorizing pilot projects for rental help for women in high-risk pregnancies;
  • Making post-partum home visits more effective by basing payment on outcomes rather than processes; and
  • Mandating that the state's tobacco cessation plan focus on Medicaid recipients.

The main causes of infant mortality are pre-term births, sleep-related deaths and birth defects. Spacing pregnancies, quitting smoking and practicing safe sleep can reduce infant mortality.

Ohio has been trying to raise public awareness of the problem for the last several years and began pushing programs such as hormone treatments for pregnant women at risk of pre-term delivery, increasing help for pregnant women to get them to quit smoking or using drugs, and sharing safe-sleeping information with new parents.

Jones said Ohio spends more on health care than 39 other states but largely has poor outcomes to show for it.

“Spending more money is just not the answer,” she said. “We have tried that and it has failed.”

Medicaid pays for roughly half of all deliveries in Ohio. Premature babies are very costly. Jones noted that in Hamilton County alone, delaying early deliveries by just one week saves $25 million a year and not doing so costs $400 million a year.

The bill now heads to the Ohio House for consideration.

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