Deep in the proposed Ohio House substitute budget bill lies a semantic change to the title of a funded line item, from “Infant Mortality” to “Infant Vitality,” as if, by a stroke of the pen, we could effectively eliminate or “spin” the burden and uncomfortable truth of infant deaths in Ohio.
The reality, faced by many local families, is that Ohio has the 11th highest infant mortality rate in the nation. In 2010, 1,068 Ohio babies died before their first birthday. For blacks, the death rate for babies is more than twice that of whites. Hardly infant vitality.
The causes for Ohio’s high infant death rate are multifaceted and rooted in birth defects, social inequities, racism and access to reproductive and primary health services.
Solutions require collaborative strategies, as advanced by Summit County Executive Russ Pry at his annual State of the County address. Unfortunately, federal and state public policy can have profound impacts on local health promotion efforts and stymie the best of local intentions.
If adopted, the House budget bill would further marginalize at-risk women and families and undermine or eliminate existing services designed to improve babies’ survival opportunities.
Current language would effectively remove federal dollars from Planned Parenthood and other vital stand-alone family-planning clinics, and opting out of Medicaid expansion, as proposed, would deny eligibility and access to health-care services for roughly 366,000 Ohioans.
Legislators point to the budget deficit and the unclear future burden of the Medicaid expansion to explain these decisions.
Locally, social service providers do not have the luxury to muse about ideology or practice partisan politics but are instead left to face the realities of managing the impact of these decisions on real people.
From a humanitarian perspective, access to affordable health care is a moral imperative, as well as a fundamental human right.
The Ohio legislature seems to be insulated from this burden of humanity, and relabeling child mortality as child vitality won’t mask their burden of responsibility to our children.
Summit County Public Health
Local enforcement and Internet cafes
An April 12 editorial (“DeWine steps up”) applauded Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s announcement that he would help local law enforcement to prosecute the 800-plus Internet cafes in Ohio.
I spoke to DeWine at an Akron victims’ rights luncheon in April 2011 and told him the Akron police vice unit had prosecuted and closed 20 such businesses in our city.
Cleveland Chief City Prosecutor Victor Perez convicted three such operators in his city, and has prevailed in an appeal to the Eighth District Ohio Court of Appeals.
How many millions of dollars have these operators made at the expense of charitable bingo, the state lottery and the new casinos that are operating legally and contribute financial support for schools and local government?
It seems the state would be better served if DeWine asked for help from local law enforcement.
Douglas J. Powley
Editor’s note: Powley is a former chief prosecutor for the city of Akron.
I had to grimace when I read Wednesday’s paper about the University of Akron asking employees to reduce their work schedules voluntarily to help its budget shortfall (“UA asks workers to trim payroll”).
If it had been April 1, I would have thought it was a practical joke.
Why doesn’t UA reduce the number of buildings or put on hold the remodeling of offices at the stadium?
What a ridiculous request.