Pass SB 332 to reduce infant mortality
The number of Ohio babies who die before their first birthday is simply unacceptable and that is why Philanthropy Ohio supports SB 332. We urge the Ohio House of Representatives to follow the lead of the Ohio Senate and pass SB 332 when it returns to its scheduled sessions after the November election. The bill passed the Senate with broad, bipartisan support as seen by its 29-1 vote.
Consider just a few facts about infant mortality, deaths before age 1 per 1,000 live births:
- Ohio ranks 45th in the nation in overall infant mortality rates;
- 7 of every 1,000 babies born in Ohio died before their first birthday in 2014;
- The rate of black babies who died in Ohio is twice that – 14.3 – and actually increased from previous years; and
- The national rate was 6.05.
Philanthropy has worked with government and community partners to develop and implement various initiatives to address this crisis in their local regions. For example, Interact for Health and United Way of Greater Cincinnati support Cradle Cincinnati, a collective impact initiative that focuses on three aspects of reducing infant mortality: preventing premature births, reducing tobacco and other substance use during pregnancy and promoting safe sleep. Hamilton County’s infant mortality rate in 2014 was 8.8, two points higher than the national rate. Fifth Third Bank also supports efforts through its funding of Cincinnati Children’s Center for Prevention of Preterm Birth, a partner in Cradle Cincinnati.
At the other end of the state, the Toledo Community Foundation has been deeply committed to the cause of saving infants. The foundation is an active partner with the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio’s Northwest Ohio Pathways HUB program.
Pathways HUB is a system designed to find at-risk pregnant women and link them to services that contribute to positive birth outcomes. The program was created to address the high number of preterm infants born to African American women living in Lucas County. Since its founding in 2007, 1,400 at-risk African American pregnant women (2,772 all races) enrolled in the Pathways HUB and the program has shown positive results: from 2013-2015, African American women enrolled in Pathways at least 90 days had a much better birth weight rate (8.2%) than the overall rates for African Americans in Lucas County (14.7% in 2014).
But these efforts, along with the state’s policy efforts to combat the high infant mortality rate, are not enough. SB 332 is a statewide, coordinated approach – critical if not sufficient – to reduce the number of infants who die each year.
The bill is innovative and deliberate in its focus on the social determinants of health, a focus that is critical to preventing the death of our youngest residents. By addressing housing issues and increasing the number of qualified community hubs providing services to at-risk populations the bill can go a long way toward saving babies and keeping them out of hospital NICUs. Its other provisions are also important, from tobacco cessation efforts to birth spacing and safe sleep education, to keep babies alive. These are interventions that work – we have proof of that – and strengthening these provisions will help our state move the needle on infant mortality.
Call your representative in the Ohio House to urge their support for the bill, moving it through committee and to the House floor before the end of this session.
Claudia Y.W. Herrold