WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) hosted a news conference call as he introduced two pieces of legislation today that will increase access to the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and help combat medical issues associated with lack of access to adequate nutrition. Access to WIC and good nutrition can help reduce the risk of heart disease, minimize maternal complications, and reduce the risk of low birth weight – a leading factor in infant mortality.
A recent study found that WIC participation is associated with lower preterm birth rates and reduced infant mortality.
“We know that access to WIC and good nutrition can help reduce the risk of heart disease, minimize complications during pregnancy, and reduce the risk of low birth weight – a leading factor in infant mortality. We need to make sure more Ohio women get that care,” said Brown.
The Community Access to Resources and Education for Families (CARE for Families) Act would create a grant program for local WIC agencies and clinics to increase the number of Ohioans in the WIC program. The grants would help increase the involvement of WIC staff in the community, improve health outcomes by better connecting WIC to other community health providers, facilitate referrals between WIC and health care providers and improve the coordination, quality, and cost effectiveness of health care services.
The WIC Enrollment Collaboration Act would strengthen collaboration between SNAP, Medicaid, and WIC so that more WIC-eligible pregnant women and very young children can get enrolled during a critical stage of development.
Combined, the bills will ensure families are getting the care and resources they need and building on the success of the WIC program to help improve health outcomes and combat maternal and infant mortality.
Brown was joined on today’s call by Ms. Barb Riley, Director of Cuyahoga County’s WIC program to discuss the importance of WIC to Ohio families and talk about how these bills will help increase access to good nutrition and healthy outcomes.
“I am deeply concerned with the number of eligible clients that are choosing not to participate where in our county infant and maternal mortality rates are alarmingly high and disparity gap has not narrowed enough,” said Ms. Riley.
Last week, Brown hosted a roundtable discussion in Columbus with patients, advocates and health providers to address health disparities, combat African American maternal mortality and reduce the maternal mortality rate statewide. Brown hosted the roundtable as black maternal mortality rates are continuing to climb in Ohio and across the nation. Ohio is currently ranked as the 26th worst state for maternal mortality, and the Ohio preterm birth rate among African American women is 49% higher than the rate among all other women.
In October, Brown’s Healthy Start Reauthorization Act, bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Healthy Start program, passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Healthy Start aims to reduce the national infant mortality rate by identifying and supporting communities with infant mortality rates that are at least one and a half times the U.S. national average or increasing above the national average. The bill will now move forward for consideration by the full Senate.