Cissy Watkins (top center) from the Community Development for All People Center shares about her role as a Community Connector for new and expecting moms on Columbus' South Side.
Cissy Watkins (top center) from the Community Development for All People Center shares about her role as a Community Connector for new and expecting moms on Columbus' South Side.
COLUMBUS - Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) and State Senator Shannon Jones (R-Springboro) met today with central Ohio medical and community leaders as part of their ongoing work to combat the infant mortality crisis in Ohio.

Joining them at the Community Development for All People Center in Columbus were State Representative Stephanie Kunze, Sandy Oxley of the Ohio Department of Health, doctors and infant care experts from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, as well as community health care workers and program directors from CelebrateOne, Community Development for All People and the Center for Family Safety and Healing.

The group discussed the vital role of community engagement in reducing the rate of infant mortality in Ohio, which currently ranks 45th in the nation for its overall infant mortality rate.

“Today we’re hearing from those who are the front lines of helping our moms and babies survive and thrive,” said Faber. “We know that simply throwing dollars at this crisis is not enough. We have some of the best medical care and research in our state, but what’s equally important is identifying community leaders from our at-risk neighborhoods to connect mothers with that care.”

"It is extremely encouraging to see so many people unified behind the common purpose of saving babies," added Jones. "The combined efforts of the legislature, local leaders, clinical experts and many others are key to addressing such a complex problem. As our coalition of stakeholders continues to grow, I am confident we will see better health outcomes and celebrate more first birthdays."

Jones introduced SB 332 earlier this year with bipartisan support to enact key findings of Ohio Commission on Infant Mortality. Provisions of the bill focus on four key areas: improvements in the collection and sharing of data, building on proven interventions, health system improvements and addressing the social determinants of health.

“This is a great opportunity to discuss how our clinical improvement efforts must be aligned and connected to the neighborhood-level strategies in order to make a real difference,” said Dr. Kelly Kelleher, Vice President of Community Health and Services Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. "Nationwide Children’s Hospital is committed to improving access to medical care but is equally committed to supporting our neighborhood partners with addressing the housing, food, transportation, etc. needs of the residents."

“We are fortunate to have leaders in our statehouse and in our community who have recognized that it will take all of us to tackle Columbus’ infant mortality crisis,” said Liane Egle, Director of CelebrateOne. “CelebrateOne has been working for 18 months on a comprehensive community plan and stands ready to work with our legislators to develop stronger policies and secure additional resources that will help to save babies in our community.”