To the editor:
For more than 30 years, my career has focused on understanding and improving how people work together to promote community health and development. Good data is the starting point for change.
In Kansas, our infant mortality rate is higher than the national rate. There has been some work by the Kansas Blue Ribbon Panel on Infant Mortality, of which I am a member, to discover reasons why that might be. But there’s a critical missing piece.
The State Child Death Review Board collects data on infant mortality and other child deaths in Kansas. But when researchers and other public health officials request the data from the board, they are routinely denied. The board is only permitted to release a select few pieces of information; researchers are unable to use the data more broadly to develop strategies that could save children’s lives.
There is a bill pending in the Kansas Legislature that would change this rule and allow researchers to access de-identified aggregate data from the State Child Death Review Board. This would help our state identify trends and risk factors that may contribute to child death. This is an important step toward improving the health of Kansas communities, and I fully support Senate Bill 259 and House Bill 2767.