Lawmaker wants new parents warned on shaking babies

CLEVELAND (AP) - A state lawmaker has drafted a bill requiring hospitals to offer to show new parents a video outlining the risk of shaking a baby.

Rep. John Widowfield, a Cuyahoga Falls Republican, plans to introduce the measure within the next few weeks.

He was motivated by an increase in shaken-baby cases in his Akron-area district and the results of a program involving 16 hospitals in the Buffalo, N.Y., area that offer to show new parents a video on the risks.

A study showed that in the three years of the Buffalo-area program, the number of shaken babies declined 54 percent. The program was voluntary, but 97 percent of parents participated.

"We can either choose as a state to sit around and do nothing or implement a program that appears to work very well," Widowfield said.

One in four severely shaken children dies, doctors say. The other three usually have serious and permanent injuries, including brain damage, blindness, developmental disabilities and seizures.

Colleen O'Connor, coordinator of the Summit County Children's Advocacy Center at Children's Hospital Medical Center of Akron, discusses the issue with students, pregnant women, new mothers and caregivers and shows a video.

In Cleveland, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health has begun a campaign to educate the public and train child-care providers, teachers, social workers and those in the medical field about shaken-baby syndrome.

Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland will use $20,000 from a child-protection grant for shaken-baby programs.

Rainbow sees about 35 such cases a year and Children's usually has about 15. But after Childrens treated 23 last year, compared with 11 in 2001, officials there decided something more needed to be done.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)