In January, Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) hosted a listening session specific to maternal health in Ohio. Sykes was joined by 14 House Democrats – all women – and State Senator Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard). Both Sykes and Kunze have recently been named inaugural National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) Maternal and Infant Health Fellows. The Fellowship class includes 24 legislators from across the United States who are leaders in maternal and child health policy.
Better data for some maternal and child measures over the last several years has enabled community-based programs to target interventions to the exact neighborhoods that need them
The listening session was in response to gaps in maternal health that have been observed and/or unaddressed through the state’s infant mortality work. A diverse group of stakeholders participated, including representatives from Ohio hospitals, nonprofit organizations and community-based organizations, health care providers, public health agencies, state agencies and policy think tanks.
Stakeholders were asked to share key issues in Ohio relating to maternal health. There were a range of responses including:
- Bias and structural racism
- Healthcare providers not truly listening to their patients
- Lack of data, on the overall issue of maternal health and causes of maternal death, without which we cannot target prevention efforts
- Ohio is not an Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM) state
- Ohio’s lack of adoption of care and safety bundles, which include action measures to address causes of maternal deaths and “near misses”
- Institute broader use of the One Key Question initiative
- Ohio’s young people are not empowered with knowledge of health and wellbeing and the importance of preventive care throughout the lifespan
- It is important to teach women to advocate for themselves. Without this, communities do not have trust in the health care system that can later on result in better preconception health, healthy pregnancies and healthy babies
- The prevalence of smoking among parents of a hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) patients
- Increased access to group prenatal care
It was also noted that better data for some maternal and child measures over the last several years has enabled community-based programs to target interventions to the exact neighborhoods that need them.
Sykes and Kunze noted that maternal health discussions would continue. They anticipated attending the inaugural NCSL Fellows meeting in late January, and expected to continued learning and moving the maternal health topic forward in Ohio.