According to humanitarian organization Save the Children, the United States has the highest first-day death rate for infants among industrialized countries – more than 11,000 babies die within 24 hours of their birth each year. It’s unthinkable. And each year in the U.S., there are more than 4,600 sudden unexpected infant deaths. What’s worse – Ohio is near the bottom compared with other states, ranking 48th in the nation for infant mortality and 50th for infant mortality among African Americans. In 2012, 1,047 babies died in Ohio before their first birthday. This is unacceptable.
There are also more than 25,000 stillbirths in the United States every year. Some of these tragic deaths can be attributed to birth defects, umbilical cord problems, infections, or a chronic medical condition suffered by the mother. But, there is no known cause for as many as half of all stillbirths. Families enduring these heartbreaking losses are left in the dark.
This week, I visited Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the John R. Maloney Family Health and Wellness Center in Columbus, and Dayton Children’s Hospital to announce a plan to address infant mortality. I introduced the Sudden Unexpected Death Data Enhancement and Awareness Act because no parent should have to grieve the loss of a child with no answers and no help. This legislation would enhance and standardize a national reporting system to better track stillbirths and sudden unexpected infant and child deaths, allowing us to better identify risk factors to prevent them in the future.
Enhanced and coordinated tracking will help us gain a better understanding of the reason for these heartbreaking deaths and ensure that all children in Ohio and across the country have every opportunity to lead healthy and full lives. By working together on all levels – local, state, and federal – to track these incidents and identify their causes, we can prevent many stillbirths and sudden unexpected infant and child deaths and help parents get the answers they deserve.
Senator Sherrod Brown represents Ohio in the Senate and is a guest columnist.