COLUMBUS: Senators on an Ohio legislative panel are visiting hospitals and health centers as part of a series of hearings on infant mortality.

The Senate Medicaid, Health, and Human Services Committee is meeting Thursday with health professionals at Columbus Public Health to discuss factors contributing to infant mortality and to hear information about a safe-sleep program. The panel also will stop at Nationwide Childrenís Hospital to talk about premature infants.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, the stateís preliminary infant mortality rate in 2011 was 7.9 per 1,000 live births. Thatís higher than the nationís rate of 6.1, and trails most other states.

Senators have been meeting with community leaders to see how public policy can improve Ohioís infant mortality rate. Last week, the committee visited Childrenís Hospital in Cincinnati.