Heritage College programs raise awareness about infant mortality
(ATHENS, Ohio – Nov. 8,
During an Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Town Hall Meeting last
summer, ODH Director Ted Wymyslo, M.D., highlighted a grim
statistic: Ohio ranks 48th in the country in the rate of
According to ODH, more than 1,000 babies die in Ohio before their
first birthday every year.
The majority of infant deaths occur for one of several reasons,
including premature births, serious birth defects, Sudden Infant
Death Syndrome or injuries from unsafe sleeping environments, or
problems with mother’s health during pregnancy. These four leading
causes of infant mortality together accounted for 61 percent of all
infant deaths in Ohio from 2006 to 2009.
Several programs at the Ohio University Heritage College of
Osteopathic Medicine aim to help prevent infant deaths, thus
improving the state’s ranking.
The college offers ODH’s Safe Sleep program, working with daycare
providers in Athens County to provide education about safe sleep
practices, said Mary McPherson, M.S.N., WHNP-BC, R.N., nurse
coordinator for the college’s Community Health Programs. “We provide
evidence-based information and education on safe sleep practices for
infants,” she said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends placing infants to
sleep flat on their backs, providing a firm sleep surface, and
removing any soft objects, loose bedding and bumper pads from the
In addition to the Safe Sleep program, the Heritage College will be
partnering with O’Bleness Memorial Hospital and the Athens
City/County Health Department in the upcoming year in a Back to
Sleep campaign in which mothers who give birth at the hospital
receive a T-shirt with the Back to Sleep message, McPherson said.
The Heritage College also consults with local businesses on ways to
make the work environment more supportive of breast-feeding mothers,
as studies prove such practices are healthier for children.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
essential elements of a successful workplace breast-feeding program
are space, time, support and gatekeeping. Employers can use many
strategies to ensure time for breast-feeding or milk expression,
including flexible work schedules and locations, break times for
pumping, and job sharing.
“It’s proven to be beneficial to infants if they are breast-fed,”
McPherson said. “Developing such policies is a ‘win-win situation’
for all—the baby, the mother and the business. Research indicates
that breast-fed babies are healthier than those who are not,
resulting in fewer lost days in sick leave for mothers to care for
ill babies and promoting happier babies, mothers and employers.”
For information about the Safe Sleep Program or support for
breast-feeding in the workplace, contact McPherson at 740-593-2481