We know we have a serious problem with infant mortality and maternal mortality in Ohio and around the country – and that we see huge disparities between white and black mothers and children.
Last week, I held a roundtable in Columbus to talk with mothers, advocates, and health care providers about their experiences and what we can do to fight disparities in birth outcomes.
One mother told us, “The Black birthing experience is very much shaped by access to quality healthcare and knowledge of available programs, resources, and services.” She continued, “Several women in my family lost children before their first birthday and my cousin died days after giving birth to her son. Poor birth outcomes was the norm in my family. So when I lost my son I thought this is what happens.”
Stories like that are all too common – and they’re unacceptable.
We must do more – and we can start by expanding access to WIC, or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, so more women get the nutrition they need to have healthier pregnancies and healthier babies.
This week, I introduced two bills to get the word out about this critical program, and help make it more effective.
The CARE for Families Act would create a grant program for local WIC agencies and clinics to increase the involvement of WIC staff in the community – including better connecting WIC to other community health providers like OB/GYNS and pediatricians, and facilitating referrals.
The second bill would make it easier for women to enroll in WIC by strengthening collaboration between SNAP, Medicaid, and WIC, so that more pregnant women and very young children can get enrolled during a critical stage of development.
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 are able to get that care.
Sherrod Brown is a Democratic U.S. Senator representing Ohio.