Child Health

Ohio Should Enact Bold Beginnings to Protect Mothers and their Children

October 21, 2022 | Ohio

Ohio Should Enact Bold Beginnings to Protect Mothers and their Children

By Kelly Vyzral, Senior Health Policy Associate | October 21, 2022

Governor DeWine recently announced the expansion of his Bold Beginnings initiative, his effort to improve child outcomes in Ohio. Infant and maternal mortality continues to be a leading public health issue in Ohio where the rate of infant mortality is substantially higher than in much of the rest of the country and the statistics facing Black infants are staggering. According to the Ohio Department of Health 2020 Infant Mortality Annual Report, the statewide infant mortality rate decreased slightly from 6.9 per 1,000 live births in 2019 to 6.7 per 1,000 live births in 2020. Although the state saw a slight decrease in Ohio’s infant mortality rate, it should be noted that racial disparities absolutely persist in that Black infants are 2.7 times more likely to die than white infants. New Black mothers in Ohio do not fare much better, and we see similar disparities in the mortality rates between white and Black mothers. Ohio ranks 27 out of 47 states that report on maternal mortality, and Black mothers are three times as likely to die from pregnancy related causes than their white counterparts.

The Bold Beginnings Initiative is a forward-thinking proposal. It expands on programs currently being implemented, proposes new programs the administration can enact without legislative approval, and puts forth recommendations that will need to go through the legislature.

Bold Beginnings Initiatives that require legislative action:

  • Provide Medicaid coverage to pregnant women and children in working families up to 300% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL)
  • Expand paid maternity leave for state employees
  • Eliminate taxes on diapers, wipes, cribs, bassinets, car seats, and other safety equipment
  • Increase eligibility for publicly funded childcare to 150% FPL
  • Increase funding for children’s services in the next budget

Bold Beginnings Initiatives that require administrative action:

  • Expand access to pre-and post-natal care to improve outcomes for women. This includes:
    • Connecting women with pre-natal care earlier in their pregnancy and providing more personalized assistance to access services, supports, and healthcare tailored to their individual needs.
    • Expand the reach of perinatal depression screening tools to more quickly identify new mothers struggling with postpartum depression and connect them to care
  • Expand access to safe, stable housing for pregnant women and new mothers to more Ohio communities by applying for a federal waiver
  • Combine the enrollment process for WIC and SNAP to make it easier for women to access the nutrition they need for themselves and their children
  • Expand access to quality childcare
    • Create small business grants to help childcare providers with start up costs
  • Expand Help Me Grow home visiting program to include more families and a new evidence-based model focused on post-partum home visiting

We strongly urge Ohio legislators to work with Governor DeWine to pass the Bold Beginnings initiatives that require legislative action. Particularly, increasing Medicaid coverage to women and children to 300% FPL. This is critical to working mothers with young children who may lose Medicaid coverage during the Public Health Emergency unwind but cannot afford insurance in the private market. As noted above, women and children in Ohio are not faring as well as their counterparts in many other states and Bold Beginnings, if enacted, would address many of the failings we see in Ohio.

Are you looking for an even bolder plan for healthy families in Ohio?

Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio is excited to support the Bold Beginnings initiative and its commitment to pregnant people and children. But we propose an even bolder commitment to the health of Ohio families.

  • Continuous Medicaid eligibility for children through age 6. Young children need uninterrupted access to health insurance to thrive. Brain development is most rapid in the early years of life, and infants and young children need quality health care to ensure they get and stay on a path to success. One important way to ensure Ohio kids are getting the care they need is to offer continuous Medicaid eligibility from birth to age 6, allowing children with Medicaid to maintain their coverage regardless of temporary household income fluctuations.
  • Increase eligibility for publicly funded childcare to 200% FPL. By expanding eligibility to quality publicly funded childcare, we can support working families, give children a better chance at breaking the cycle of poverty, and invest in Ohio’s future economic prosperity.
  • Modernize and innovate the Ohio WIC program. Governor DeWine highlighted the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the cross-enrollment strategy underway in Ohio. We applaud this strategy, but more must be done to modernize and innovate the WIC program in Ohio and make sure it meets the needs of its participants. As we wrote about here, WIC must be brought “online” so that benefits can be electronically transferred to recipients.

CDF-Ohio is committed to the well-being of children in Ohio and stands ready to work with the Governor and the legislature to enact these important policies and protect mothers and their children and help them thrive into the future.