Guest Column from State Representative Greenspan
One of the most pressing issues that the state legislature has been studying over the past few years is infant mortality. According to the Commission on Infant Mortality, Ohio ranks forty-fifth in the nation for its overall infant mortality rate. This statistic is abysmal, and the future of our state hinges on the health of our youngest population. In March 2016, the Commission released a report of recommendations to the legislature and the Governor’s office regarding this issue. With the passage of the Infant Mortality Prevention Act, those recommendations will be implemented.
Infant mortality is defined as the death of an infant before his or her first birthday. The recommendations made by the Ohio Senate include enhancements to current intervention practices. Safe sleep, birth spacing, and abstinence from tobacco are all approaches to ensuring the safety of a newborn child. Under the legislation, the Ohio Department of Health is required to provide annual safe sleep training at no cost to parents in infant mortality hot spots, which tend to be in urban areas and Ohio’s biggest cities. Additionally, the Ohio Department of Health is required to emphasize tobacco use reduction by Medicaid recipients through its tobacco use and cessation plan. The Department of Health is also encouraged to partner with organizations involved with infant mortality to help them attain grant money to aid in efforts to stop tobacco use.
Another provision in The Infant Mortality Prevention Act addresses the availability of contraception, an effort to prevent another pregnancy from occurring too quickly after the birth of an infant. According to the World Health Organization, women who have at least eighteen months between pregnancies are at a lower risk for a preterm birth. With this provision, hospitals with a maternity unit must ensure that women who have given birth have the option to have a long-acting reversible contraceptive placed before they are discharged.
Further, the Ohio Department of Medicaid must collect data and conduct research on the effectiveness of infant mortality reduction initiatives and the status of Ohio’s infant mortality rate. By reporting data and statistics on a quarterly basis, the state can get a better sense of how the infant mortality epidemic is changing and responding to the programs created to combat it. With this updated information, the legislature and administration will be better prepared to respond with the best tactics for improving our infant mortality rate and protecting families.
Although these recommendations were executed through during the last General Assembly and before I was sworn in as the state representative of our Westshore community, I can say with confidence that this effort has my full support. As poor as Ohio’s standing is nationally regarding infant mortality, I know there is still much work to be done, and I intend to help communities come together to work on solutions to this issue in any way I can. The Infant Mortality Prevention Act was a big step in the right direction for the safety of Ohio’s future generations.