Working Together To Save Ohio's Babies
A Guest Column by State Senator Scott Oelslager
November 04, 2014
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There was a time, in our not too distant past, when babies did not ride in car seats. When federal, state and local officials learned that car seats were life-saving devices for children, we studied, we tested, and we made changes. The state of Ohio came together with communities to make sure no newborn left the hospital without a safe car ride home in a certified baby carrier.
Today, public officials, hospitals, pediatricians and parents are working together to make sure babies have a safe place to sleep.
Ohio has the troubling statistic of ranking 47th nationally for infant mortality, which is defined as the death of a baby before age one.  According to the Ohio Child Fatality Review Report, from 2006-2010, 42 percent of these infant deaths after the first month of life were sleep-related. 
We’ve learned many sad statistics surrounding infant mortality.  However, Ohio lawmakers are actively working with our communities to bring this serious issue to light and to take strategic action to help our babies make it to their first birthday. October is Safe Sleep and SIDS awareness month.
Senate Bill 276 responds to this call for action by implementing ways to ensure a baby’s safe sleep environment. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, sleep environment plays a central role in the rates of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and SUID (Sudden Unexpected Infant Death).  Sleep environment risk factors include bed-sharing, objects in a sleep environment and position of the baby.  Education matched with resources can go a long way in preventing deaths. This legislation calls for the Ohio Department of Health to deliver a strong and clear message about safe sleep to parents. If a parent has not made safe sleep arrangements, the baby will not be allowed to leave the hospital or birthing center. 
Primarily, hospitals and birthing centers will be required to implement a screening procedure to make sure a suitable sleeping place is ready for each newborn baby that is discharged. Secondly, Senate Bill 276 requires a widespread distribution of educational materials to all involved in the process. It is important that everyone is on the same page with one concise message.  Finally, the bill language encourages hospitals to work with the Ohio Department of Health’s Cribs for Kids program, which can help find cribs for those families in need.
Senate Bill 276 was jointly sponsored by Senator Shannon Jones (R-Springboro) and Senator Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus).  This legislation, which I co-sponsored, passed unanimously out of the Ohio Senate and is now pending hearings in the Ohio House of Representatives.
If you would like more information about safe sleep initiatives in Ohio, please visit the Ohio Department of Health’s website,  Also, feel free to contact my office at (614) 466-0626.

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