WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, President Obama signed 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).
“I am honored to join the countless families and advocates in Ohio who have fought – in the midst of unspeakable grief – to advance this bill,” Brown said. “But the fight isn’t over – there are still too many lives cut short and too many families left with questions. Our nation’s infant mortality rate is too high; we must pursue every avenue to prevent the tragedies that take the lives of children and babies.”
The Sudden Unexpected Death Data Enhancement and Awareness Act will enhance the current system used to report on infant and childhood deaths so that patterns become clear and we can better prevent these deaths. Originally introduced by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Brown took up the legislation and re-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.
This legislation will 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. This collaboration with the states to enhance current methods of data collection across existing surveillance systems will enable doctors and researchers to better track and prevent these tragic losses. In addition, the legislation 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, the National Association of Police Organizations, Inc., the Ohio Hospital Association, and Ohio Public Health Association.
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.