Ohio must reduce risk to babies

Babies are at higher risk in Ohio than almost anywhere else in the country. The state’s infant-mortality rate was at 7.7 per 1,000 births in 2010 -putting Ohio fourth worst in the nation.

State Health Department Director Dr. Ted Wymyslo announced an effort to get local health departments, the state health department and an organization that connects health agencies on board to solve the problem.

State senators also are jumping in, saying they hope to bring the issue to Senate health discussions.

From 2000 to 2010, the national infant-mortality rate dropped by 11 percent. In Ohio, it increased 3 percent. The state Department of Health says the top causes of death include low birth weight, birth defects and sudden infant death syndrome.

“This is not just a problem of delivery rooms,” Wymyslo said.

He is right. An effort to lower the rate at which Ohio’s babies are dying -1,068 did not reach their first birthday, in 2010 – must include guidance for parents and women of child-bearing age, as much as it involves doctors and nurses.

Officials and health care providers must not look at 2010 figures and assume that surely the situation has improved in the past three years. According to one report, the infant-mortality rate went up in 2011, to 7.9 per 1,000 births.

Ohio is dotted with medical schools, research facilities and top-notch hospitals. Wymyslo is correct when he says the numbers do not represent the system’s capabilities.

Children are not born to hospitals, but to parents. As Ohio works to make itself a less risky place for babies to enter the world, it must make sure women have whatever information and encouragement they need to be healthy mothers; and new parents get the help they need to keep their babies safe.