There’s Progress in Maternal & Child Health … But We’re Not Done (video)

sleeping baby

For years, I have been pounding a drum about the need for the state of Arizona to fully fund maternal and child health and to tackle Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Too many Moms and babies are dying or living with poverty and disease due to stingy policies in Arizona.

Arizona’s Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Report (AMMMR) showed that 80 percent of the post childbirth maternal deaths were preventable and 20 percent were suicides. Moms need help — especially now with the added stress of COVID19 and limited childcare options.

M&C Health got a much-need boost recently with the passage of increased funding for Healthy Families (HB2111). Healthy Families is a program that was cut dramatically in the past 10 years and never restored. It is a voluntary home visitation postpartum program. Health educators visit new moms and their babies and teach topics like breast feeding, healthy diet, and coping skills, along with strategies to be a better mom.

Healthy Families will help moms in crisis, but it’s only one part of the solution. SB1272, proposed by Senator Tyler Pace, is a bipartisan bill to extend postpartum medical care for AHCCCS patients to one year after childbirth. Currently the the window of care is so small that many new moms can’t get a check up appointment during that time. The AMMMR showed that many of the women who died unnecessarily died within a year of childbirth.

When I analyzed M&C Health data a few years ago, I found a shocking number of women — particularly Native American and black women — didn’t have the full complement of prenatal car visits. This is where the Nurse Family Partnership (NFP) and Group Prenatal Care come in. Nurse Family Partnership is similar to Health Families except that NFP employs nurses and their focus is first-time, at-risk moms. NFP connects with new moms before the thrid trimester and helps these moms bring their babies to term. (Health Families usually connects with moms when they are closer to childbirth or after childbirth.) Group Prenatal Care (HB2230), which was the subject of a previous video, facilitates provider-based health education classes for expecting mothers.

There is a lot of positive movement in Maternal and Child Health, but what the state really needs is a comprehensive plan, rather than a collection of bills. Arizona has LOTS of money. It’s time to invest in our future by investing in the health of our children.

UPDATE: Funding for Healthy Families and extension of post partum care to one year were included in the budget — along with increased funding for nursing education. These are bills that I proposed for many years. It is heartening that as I end my Legislative career to see these programs advance. There’s still more to do as evidenced by this graphic from February 2020.

social determinants of health
This graphic represents House Democratic Caucus bill ideas that would address maternal and child health by looking at the social determinants of health. (February 2020.)