WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House passed legislation authored by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) that would help doctors and researchers better understand the causes of stillbirths, Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID), and Sudden Unexplained Deaths in Childhood (SUDC) today. The Senate and House-passed bill will be sent to President Obama’s desk.
“While this law will not bring back the lives of countless children and babies, it does bring us one step closer to preventing future tragedies,” Brown said. “But there is more work to be done. We must continue to work together to better understand sudden infant deaths, help provide families with answers to their questions, and improve the health of our infants and children in Ohio and across the country.”
The Sudden Unexpected Death Data Enhancement and Awareness Act aims to enhance the current system used to report on infant and childhood deaths as a way of improving prevention efforts. Brown introduced the bill in the Senate with Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr (D-NJ-6) introduced the House bill.
"Nothing is more devastating for a parent than the loss of their child, but it is even more painful to lose a child without understanding how or why such a tragedy occurred," said Ayotte. "I’m pleased that Congress has given final approval to this legislation, which will improve efforts to promote better collaboration, enhance data collection, and disseminate information to the public and stakeholders in the medical and law enforcement communities - with the goal of increasing awareness and ultimately preventing parents from experiencing the heartbreaking loss of a child.”
This legislation would build on existing activities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to improve upon the quality and consistency of data collected during death scene investigations and autopsies to better inform prevention and intervention efforts related to stillbirths, SUID, and SUDC. By collaborating with the states to enhance current methods of data collection across existing surveillance systems, the CDC will enable doctors and researchers to better track and prevent these tragic losses. In addition, the legislation would requires the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to disseminate information related to stillbirths, SUID, and SUDC to educate the public, health care providers, and other stakeholders involved in investigating the deaths of infants and young children so that everyone is on the same page.
This bipartisan, bicameral legislation is supported by more than 25 local, state, and national organizations, including the Children’s Hospital Association, the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners, National Association of Police Organizations, Inc., Ohio Hospital Association and Ohio Public Health Association. U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ 6) has been leading companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Brown released a county-by-county map detailing infant mortality rates in Ohio, which ranks worst in the nation for African American infant mortality and 48th in the nation across all births. In 2012, 1,047 Ohio babies died before their first birthday. Each year, there are more than 25,000 stillbirths in the United States. Many of these deaths are the result of birth defects, umbilical cord problems, chronic conditions of the mother, or infections. However, there is no known cause for as many as half of all stillbirths, leaving thousands of parents without any explanation for these deaths. In addition, there are more than 4,600 sudden unexpected infant deaths each year and another 200 children between the ages of one and four who die without any clear cause for their death.