By Mike R. Fraser, PhD
It is hard to describe the mood in Washington this week but there is definitely something different in the air. The election of our nation’s first African American president brings excitement, a sense of possibility, and yes even elation to what is usually a very staid, suit-and-tie, tradition-bound city. Riding the subway to work the morning after the election was like attending a party on wheels – people were talking, sharing their newspapers, reflecting on the importance of what just happened and normally reserved Washingtonians looked at each other and smiled. November 4th was an amazing day for America regardless of your political convictions. It was a day to remember, to tell our children about, and to share in the celebration of all that is good about the peaceful transition of power, our democracy, and its ideals.
And now the question is not who will be our next president but rather what will he be able to do? How will he do it? Who will he call upon for help? Quickly after Obama’s victory, pundits and politicos began to float the names of potential cabinet members, key staff leaders, and started putting together their list of who will fill important positions in the new Administration. Over the next few weeks we will have a good idea of who key leaders in the new Administration and Congress will be. In the next few months we should know key cabinet level appointments and start the process for Senate confirmation of top government appointees. Eager to start the work of a new Administration the transition is definitely “full-speed ahead,” and moving rapidly to assure that on January 21st the president hits the ground running and is able to address key issues such as the economy, taxes, and health care.
So, what does November 4th mean for MCH programs? It is too early to tell but we have some signals from campaign documents and the “buzz” around town. The dire economic situation including a record Federal deficit estimated to be over half a trillion dollars, will constrain Federal investments in a number of areas. There are no quick fixes to this problem and much energy is and will be focused on addressing the economic challenges we face in the months, and years, ahead. Unfortunately, many predict that the new Administration’s hands will be tied by the economic realities in which we find ourselves and limit the potential for major investments in programs including health.
Health care reform is on the transition agenda and work has already begun in the Senate to develop proposals for universal coverage for all Americans. In Obama’s campaign documents there were a number of specifics about how to reform and improve health care in the United States. Exactly what this will look like remains to be seen but AMCHP is participating in discussions here in Washington and representing state MCH and CYSHCN programs in these conversations. These are exciting times and we are cautiously optimistic that we will see increased attention to maternal and child health in these reform debates even with the limitations and constraints on Federal spending. AMCHP will continue to provide updates on current happenings here in Washington in Member Briefs, Pulse, via our email legislative alerts, and on our website.
This issue of Pulse focuses on preconception care. Preconception care is a great example of a maternal and child health strategy that addresses a number of the important challenges highlighted above. We know that healthy women are more likely to have healthy babies, and investing in women’s health is a smart and sound strategy for future health care initiatives. By investing in prevention and population health, preconception care can realize savings in future chronic disease spending not to mention savings by reducing negative birth outcomes. Clearly, increasing the focus on preconception care offers a number of benefits. AMCHP and your colleagues in maternal and child health programs continue to work on efforts to translate preconception care principles into MCH practice at the local, state, and Federal levels.
As AMCHP moves forward in this transition time it is good to know that sound strategies, such as preconception care, are tools in our MCH toolkit that can effectively and efficiently address the needs of MCH populations. We anticipate continuing to make the case not only for increased investments in MCH programs but also sharing the success of your work and the difference you make in your states and communities. While no one knows just what the future holds for MCH in the new Administration and Congress, we do know that transition times offer opportunities to rethink how things have been done in the past, emphasize the contributions of successful work, and enhance the role of MCH in the future. We are looking forward to reaching out to partners to move our shared MCH agenda forward, together. With your help we can use this transition time to recommit ourselves to educating and informing policymakers on MCH issues, and advocating for all women and children served by Title V programs nationwide.