COLUMBUS — State Senator Shannon Jones (R-Springboro), Chair of the Senate’s Health & Human Services Committee, announced the passage of legislation that advances efforts to help more Ohio babies reach their milestone first birthday.
Ohio’s infant mortality rate, defined by the number of babies who die during their first year of life, ranks 45th in the nation, and the Ohio Senate, led by Jones, has tirelessly fought for policies aimed at improving the health of Ohio’s mothers and babies.
Senate Bill 332 reflects recommendations of the Ohio Commission on Infant Mortality, which focus on aiming Ohio’s fight against infant mortality at implementing best practices and scaling proven interventions into targeted neighborhoods.
“I’m incredibly grateful for the partnership between the legislature, Ohio’s medical and clinical experts and our local community leaders to address a complex and devastating, yet often preventable problem,” said Jones. “Enormous effort has gone into learning how to best support our most vulnerable moms and babies, and I am confident that this legislation is one more step forward to better health outcomes and more first birthdays in Ohio.”
“Ohio is blessed with some of the best clinical healthcare facilities, programs and experts in the world, but this is a public health crisis that needs an accountable system designed to improve the health of our mothers and infants,” added Senator Keith Faber, President of the Ohio Senate. “I greatly appreciate Shannon’s perseverance and leadership to bring together a diverse and bipartisan group of stakeholders who have developed tested, results-based solutions for us to implement in Ohio.”
Highlights of Senate Bill 332
- Making Data Timely, Transparent and Actionable: The Commission on Infant Mortality recognized the importance of improving access to timely data for the purpose of enhanced analysis and creating standardized scorecards to easily track progress. Access to accurate and timely data is critical for stakeholder groups to make informed decisions. Senate Bill 332 requires the Ohio Department of Health to report on the state’s performance on infant mortality, preterm birth weight rate and low birth weight rate delineated by race, ethnic group, and geography, as well as other information as it is available to those entities on the ground working tirelessly to save babies.
- Building on Best Practices: Senate Bill 332 contains many system improvements to the implementation of best practices around safe sleep, smoking and birth spacing. For example, sleep related deaths account for 15 percent of all infant deaths in Ohio. In fact, we lose 3 babies each week in our state due to unsafe sleep environments. Senate Bill 332 increases the accountability for hospitals and birthing centers on safe sleep education, including the facilitation of a crib if necessary.
- Focusing on and Paying for Outcomes: Senate Bill 332 places emphasis on implementing the best practices of evidenced-based home visiting programs. The bill requires the Ohio Department of Health to prioritize families living in geocoded infant mortality hot spots to receive Help Me Grow home visiting services to reach our most at-risk moms and babies. Senate Bill 332 also seeks to expand the Pathways Community HUB model in infant mortality “hot-spots.” This nationally certified model is designed to specifically target the most at-risk communities by working collaboratively with preexisting community resources to more efficiently and effectively improve health outcomes. As an example, it’s credited with successfully reducing the low birth weight rate of a group of at-risk women in Richland County to 6.1 percent while similar women from the same community who did not receive the same interventions had a low birth weight rate of 13 percent. Based on geocoded infant mortality hot spot data, Senate Bill 332 will provide the opportunity for hot-spot communities to establish a qualified community HUB to reach the most vulnerable citizens in each corner of the state.
- Addressing Social Determinants of Health: Social determinants play a major role in identifying at risk women and babies, and Senate Bill 332 requires the creation of a community stakeholder group tasked with reviewing state policies and programs that are intended to improve educational attainment, public transportation options, housing and access to employment through the lens of infant mortality. This will aid in the state’s ability to identify and address the social determinants that contribute to Ohio’s high racial disparity of infant death. Further, Senate Bill 332 will require the Ohio Housing Finance Agency to include the reduction of infant mortality as a priority housing need in their annual plan. OHFA may also establish a rental assistance pilot program to assist pregnant women in infant mortality hot spots.
History of the Ohio Senate’s Work on Infant Mortality
By way of background, a state’s infant mortality rate (IMR) is defined by the number of babies who die during their first year of life per 1,000 live births. In 2014 alone, 955 Ohio babies died before their first birthday, ranking us 45th in the nation. Ohio, like the nation as a whole, experiences significant disparities in birth outcomes between whites and African Americans and addressing this challenge has been a major priority.
- 2009: The Ohio Department of Health launches the Ohio Infant Mortality Task Force
- 2010: The Task Force evolves into the Ohio Collaborative to Prevent Infant Mortality representing a wide range of organizations including government, public health, education, medicine, business, insurance and advocacy groups.
- 2013: Senators Jones and Tavares conduct a series of traveling hearings across the state meeting with local leaders and medical experts about Ohio’s infant mortality crisis.
- April 2014: Senate passes SB 278 (Jones) to require the use of the Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Reporting Form to help better understand and document the state’s SIDS rate. The bill passes both chambers and is signed into law.
- December 2014: Senate passes SB 276 (Jones) creating the Ohio Commission on Infant Mortality and directing it to create an inventory of state interventions and prepare recommendations for the Governor and General Assembly. The bill also includes measures to improve Safe Sleep Education. The bill passes both chambers and is signed into law.
- 2015: The Ohio Commission on Infant Mortality holds several public hearings over a 6-month time period and delivers a report to the Governor and General Assembly.
- May 2016: Senator Jones introduces SB 332 to implement recommendations of the Commission.
- June 2016: The state budget (HB 64) allocated $13.4 million in funding for initiatives around the state focused on infant mortality reduction efforts.
- September 28, 2016: The Senate passes SB 332 implementing recommendations of the Commission. It now moves to the Ohio House for further consideration.