Back to the Future
By Mike R. Fraser, PhD
One of my favorite movies of the early 1980s is “Back to the Future.” I think most of you know the story in which Michael J. Fox’s character Marty McFly is transported to the past via an extraordinarily complicated and ridiculously tricked-out DeLorean created by the crazy Dr. Emmett Brown. Hilarious antics follow but the irony of the movie’s title is another key part of the movie. I have been thinking about the notion of “going back to the future” a lot lately. Last month I presented at the inaugural MCH Public Health Leadership Institute in Chapel Hill, N.C. I was asked to speak on the “future of MCH” and had a great time putting that presentation together and talking with a group of talented MCH leaders about the various trends and issues we can anticipate influencing MCH practice in the future. An important part of my presentation had to do with going “back to the future” – meaning the things that were part of MCH practice in the past are things that I think we will carry with us into the future, and in fact, in the future we may need to do more of them.
Take home visitation for example. As Phyllis Sloyer’s column this month aptly describes, home visitation programs have been a core tactic in improving maternal and child health outcomes for many years. The two photos below demonstrate the “back to the future” nature of home visitation. The first photo is of a nurse visiting a Native American family in 1967. The second, more contemporary photo, shows a nurse visiting a family in 2009. With 42 years separating these two scenes we realize the timeless images of an MCH professional, in this case nurses, visiting families and building parenting and child development skills. This truly represents the “back to the future” nature of the new home visitation program established as a new section of Title V. How fitting that in this 75th Anniversary year of Title V we are indeed drawing on the rich legacy of home visitation and investing significant new resources in a tried and true strategy to improve maternal and child health outcomes.
As we look to the future of Title V and the MCH Services Block Grant, the new evidence-based home visitation program is certainly an exciting “back to the future” part of Title V. This issue of Pulse highlights some of the great work being done in the states in the area of home visitation and demonstrates how home visitation improves maternal and child health. As we continue our celebration of Title V’s past, let’s also be sure to acknowledge the future – and look to the new home visitation program and other new investments in maternal and child health as ways for us to look back in time to take what works and use it to improve the health of women, children, fathers and families in our future.