Despite improvements, Ohio remains one of the worst for infant mortality

Ohio Statehouse News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — There was good news and bad news for the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Board last week.

​On one hand, researchers showed infant mortality rates have gone down over the past few years. ​

“Considering this data is not risk-adjusted and that we take care of the vast majority of high-risk pregnancies, our current infant mortality rate is truly remarkable,” said Dr. Mark Landon, a researcher at the medical center. ​

Landon also had some bad news to share.​

“Despite our progress, marked racial disparity remains with African-American women at a greater than three-fold increased risk of having their child never reach its first birthday,” Landon told the board.​

When it comes to research, much has been learned about infant mortality, according to Landon.

It is now commonly accepted that premature births contribute highly to infant mortality. ​Other factors like poverty, the absence of affordable housing, and food insecurity are seen as adding to the stress of the mother, which, in turn, increases the risk of infant mortality.​

Addressing these societal issues is expected to impact infant mortality in a positive way.​

Lawmakers at the Ohio Statehouse are attempting to do just that, but they said there is no quick or easy fix to this problem.

​”We might not be able to eradicate the issue overnight, but we must continue to very systematically be engaged in this issue, because this has life and death implications,” said State Sen. Hearcel Craig, a Democrat from Columbus. “We’ve got to look at ways that we can have change, and again some of these are deep structural issues, but they’re issues that we can work on and I believe, in my mind, that we can overcome them.”​

Craig has a strong ally in State Sen. Stephanie Kunze, who serves with him on a board dedicated to reducing infant mortality.

Several years ago, Kunze sought Craig out.

​”I said, ‘I want to see your district through your eyes and what can be done,’ and one of the things that was the biggest take-aways that I saw on that tour was the lack of grocery, the lack of healthy foods available,” said Kunze.​

Since then, the pair have been leaders at the Statehouse on the issue.

Several other lawmakers have also taken up the banner and are pushing to make an impact on infant mortality.

​Craig explains that often bills passed by the legislature can impact infant mortality indirectly as they attempt to deal with other problems. The global approach lawmakers are using chips away at a problem that is too large and tied to too many other issues, for a single targeted strike to eliminate at one time.

​Still, the sense of urgency is there. Both Kunze and Craig expressed how even one death is too many and that no child should die. Neither wants the next generation to have to deal with this problem.​

“I think there’s been a concerted effort,” said Craig. “My expectation is, is that will continue to even broaden our perspective on this issue.”​

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