COLUMBUS, OH — With Ohio ranking worst in the nation for African American infant mortality and 48th in the nation across all births, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today announced landmark legislation to help doctors and researchers better understand the causes of stillbirths, Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID), and Sudden Unexpected Deaths in Children (SUDC).

“No parent should have to grieve the loss of a child without access to answers and help,” Brown said. “Currently, Ohio is worst in the nation for African American infant mortality and 48th in the nation for all births. This is unacceptable. That’s why I am introducing the Sudden Unexpected Death Data Enhancement and Awareness Act to help doctors and researchers begin to fight back against these tragic losses and help ensure that all children have every opportunity to lead healthy and full lives.”

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.

At John R. Maloney Family Health and Wellness Center, Brown announced his introduction of the Sudden Unexpected Death Data Enhancement and Awareness Act, landmark legislation that aims to fill the gaps in federal reporting of infant and childhood deaths as a way to improve prevention efforts. The legislation would give the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) authority to standardize the protocols used by medical examiners in stillbirths and unexpected infant and childhood deaths. Additionally, the legislation would build on existing activities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to establish and promote a standard method of data collection for scene investigations and autopsies so that every entity involved in investigating the deaths of infants and young children is on the same page. This would enable doctors and researchers to better track and prevent these tragic losses.

Brown was joined by two Columbus-area parents, Dr. Arielle Bokisa and Scott Weidener. Dr. Bokisa’s son, Gabriel, was stillborn at full term in May with no clear cause. Weidener – a firefighter and paramedic with the Columbus Division of Fire – lost his three month old son Jude unexpectedly, and with no clear cause, in May 2011. Brown was also joined by Dr. Teresa Long, Health Commissioner for the City of Columbus, and Dr. Patricia Gabbe, Pediatrician, Researcher, and Professor at Nationwide Children’s and OSU Wexner Medical Center, who outlined how the legislation would support local efforts to combat infant mortality.

“We have a crisis in our community that is inconsistent with our values, as our infant mortality rate remains one of the highest in the country. Infant Mortality is a complex challenge and an important measure of the health of our community,” said Dr. Teresa C. Long, Columbus Public Health commissioner. “The Sudden Death Data Enhancement and Awareness Act will give us the data we need so we know how to locally drive our actions to prevent putting future newborns at risk,” she said.

The Sudden Unexpected Death Data Enhancement and Awareness Act, bipartisan legislation that was introduced with Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), is supported by more than 20 local, state, and national organizations, including the Children’s Hospital Association, the International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners, and the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. In addition, the Ohio Hospital Association and the Ohio Public Health Association have endorsed this legislation.

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