27 Investigates

Popular pregnancy program in danger after trade war with China hikes up crib prices

Over the last three years, more than 300 cribs were passed out in Mahoning Co.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) - The international trade war with China is having some unintended consequences here in the Mahoning Valley.

New mom Storm Vanek received a free pack-and-play crib as part of St Elizabeth Hospital's Centering Pregnancy group.

"It was literally a blessing to me. I didn't know about safe sleep and stuff like that until I came to my centering group and they explained it to me and they showed me all the things that I needed to do," Vanek said.

The Centering Pregnancy program is just one of the ways people are trying to prevent infant deaths in the area.

Many of Mahoning County's infant deaths were caused by babies sleeping in unsafe conditions.

"Science has shown that the best way for a baby to sleep, we say it's ABC -- alone, back, crib," said Sara McNicholas, St. Elizabeth Hospital.

Just the simple act of giving new moms a portable crib and telling them about safe sleep has done a lot to cut back on infant deaths.

Moms who are part of the program at St. Elizabeth can get a free pack-and-play through the hospital.

The Mahoning County Health Department has passed out more than 300 cribs over the last three years. But now, the program that provided the crib service there is in jeopardy.

"We've been told by the Ohio Department of Health to slow down. We can't order any more until further notice. So we have 50 on hand and that's it," said Pat Sweeney, county health commissioner.

The reason? The trade war with China and its 25 percent tariff on Chinese goods has made the cribs too expensive for the state to afford.

Over the past year with the program, not a single child has died in Mahoning County due to unsafe sleep conditions.

"We have had a staggeringly devastating infant mortality rate for decades," Sweeney said.

While the county has been doing everything it can to prevent babies from dying, the fear is that without the cribs, more babies could be at risk.


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