Pediatrician helps newborn safety at Wheeling

WHEELING – A local pediatrician is playing a major role in helping make Ohio’s pediatric hospitals safer for newborns.

At a recent meeting of the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Columbus, Dr. Judy Romano said Ohio’s infant mortality rate must be effectively addressed. Ohio has the third-highest infant mortality rate in the country, and the second-highest rate for African-American babies.

Romano, who is director of Wheeling Hospital’s Center for Pediatrics, was among physicians invited to discuss safe sleep, a new plan to increase safety for sleeping babies at Ohio’s pediatric hospitals. An audit performed by Dr. Jamie Macklin of Nationwide Children’s Hospital showed that cribs at Ohio’s six children’s hospitals often contained toys and blankets.

She also said mattresses were too soft and babies were often placed on their sides to sleep. American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommend that infants sleep on their backs, alone, in an empty crib with a firm mattress.

Romano said hospitals have to apply the same infant care guidelines as those provided to parents. The goal of safe sleep is to get 90 percent of compliance to the guidelines in Ohio hospitals.

“The profession needs to evaluate itself,” she said. “Maybe they don’t know about the guidelines, or are just used to doing what they’ve always done. We will address this problem.”

Romano has served on the AAP’s Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption and Dependent Care. She is a member of the West Virginia Chapter of the AAP, which named her pediatrician of the year in 2003. An adviser to Head Start organizations in West Virginia and Ohio, Romano also serves on the Ohio Early Childhood Advisory Council.

In 2012, Romano received the Dr. Susan S. Aronson Early Education and Child Care Advocacy Award at the AAP National Conference and Exhibition. The national award is given annually by the AAP to recognize individual pediatricians who have made a significant contribution to improving the health and safety of children in early education and child care settings.