MANSFIELD -- Ohio is set to become the second state in the U.S. to launch a universal program where all expecting and new parents can receive a free baby box by completing online parenting education.
The program is being launched on Friday, March 10 throughout Ohio via a partnership with The Baby Box Co., the California-based company behind the Baby Box University. The aim is to improve family healthcare outcomes and reduce Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Syndrome (SUIDS).
As part of the statewide launch, a baby box program will officially kick off in Richland County on March 10, in partnership with Richland Public Health. The launch event will begin at 2:30 p.m. with a ceremony at the Mansfield Area Y, where the first baby boxes in Richland County will be distributed.
"Richland Public Health supports this collaborative approach to educate families and safeguard the health and well-being of our babies," said Richland Public Health Commissioner Martin Tremmel.
In addition to Richland Public Health, the statewide Ohio baby box program is partnering with the Cincinnati Health Department, University Hospitals (UH) MacDonald Women's and Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospitals, Muskingum Valley Health Centers, and Babies Need Boxes, among other community health organizations.
The statewide baby box launch will take place on Friday, March 10 at 10:30 a.m. in the Atrium of University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. Experts at UH MacDonald Women's and UH Rainbow Babies & Children's hospitals in Cleveland helped develop the Baby Box University syllabus for Ohio parents.
In 2017, the Ohio baby box program is expected to distribute up to approximately 140,000 baby boxes annually, ensuring that every expecting family in Ohio has access to this free resource regardless of socioeconomic background.
"I'm so proud to empower new parents in Ohio with the physical and educational resources they need to feel confident," said Jennifer Clary, CEO of The Baby Box Co. "Every parent has a right to the necessary tools to care for their infant, and every child deserves a safe and supported start in life."
Baby boxes are made from a durable cardboard and are certified for safe sleep, so the box can be used as a baby's bed for its first months of life. However, while parents appreciate the baby boxes and the quality care products included, it is the educational component and closer communication with local healthcare providers that is at the center of the Baby Box University distribution model.
As such, families will be required to view their community's online curriculum related to prenatal health, breastfeeding, safe sleep practices and newborn care before receiving a free baby box. This pays homage to the Finnish tradition of baby boxes, which is committed not only to universal product distribution, but to supporting families with access to healthcare and education.
"The Baby Box Co. recognizes that a safe sleep environment coupled with parenting education is vital to provide to all families," said Tremmel.
To receive a free baby box, local parents start by registering for free at babyboxuniversity.com as an Ohio resident. Parents must be sure to include the correct contact information, including a mailing address.
After registering, parents will watch a 10- to 15-minute Ohio-specific syllabus at babyboxuniversity.com. After taking a short quiz, parents then receive a certificate of completion and will be able to select local pick-up or direct delivery of a baby box.
If direct delivery is selected, the baby box will ship to the address provided during registration on Baby Box University. If local pick-up is selected, parents can bring their Baby Box University certificate to the closest participating distribution partner to collect their baby box.
Ohio caught the attention of The Baby Box Co. due to the state's infant mortality rates ranking 44 out of 50 states for highest infant deaths. According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2016 the infant mortality rate in Ohio was 6.3, meaning six infant deaths occurred per 1,000 live births before a baby's first birthday.
Even then, this statistic only addresses deaths among Caucasian babies. The infant mortality rates jumps to 12.9 per 1,000 live births for African American babies. This translates to an overall rate of 7.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in Ohio; nationally, the rate is 6.0 deaths.
According to Dr. Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew, UH Clinical Diversity Officer and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, the two biggest contributors to sudden, unexplained infant death are premature birth and unsafe sleep arrangements.
"This phenomenal safe sleep space program for newborns will help hospitals and nonprofits provide optimal, safe care to all expecting families in Ohio," said Larkins-Pettigrew. "We are grateful that The Baby Box Co. and Babies Need Boxes Ohio share in our mission to improve outcomes for mothers and their babies, and to help solve the infant mortality crisis."
All expecting parents in Ohio are eligible to receive a baby box that includes newborn essentials such as Pampers Swaddlers diapers, Pampers baby wipes, Vroom activity cards from the Bezos Family Foundation, Lansinoh breast pads and nipple cream for breastfeeding mothers, a onsie, and more. Every product features a scientifically-proven baby brain-boosting activity parents can do while using the item.
E. Yuri Hermida, vice president of P&G North America Baby Care, said P&G is proud to be part of the baby box program especially in Ohio - Pampers' home state.
"As a brand dedicated to the happy, healthy development of babies for more than 50 years, we share The Baby Box Co.'s important mission to support expecting parents with health education, and support new babies with a safe sleep environment," Hermida said.
The baby box program was first introduced in Richland County via the Richland Source solutions journalism series "Healing Hope." Community health leaders learned firsthand about the baby box program in January, then took the first steps towards implementing a program in February.