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 CityMatCH Announces the Prevention of Substance-Exposed Pregnancies Practice Collaborative

By Anna Rough
Public Health Communications Specialist, CityMatCH

CityMatCH, with funding and guidance from the CDC National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD), announces the first meeting of a new practice collaborative focusing on the Prevention of Substance- Exposed Pregnancies (PSEP). The PSEP Collaborative aims to reduce the number of pregnancies affected by alcohol and other substances within U.S. urban areas.

We know that substance use during pregnancy is an important public health issue; 12.2 percent of pregnant women engage in alcohol and other substance use. However, the main focus of this collaborative is to move beyond what has typically been done during prenatal care, and instead focus attention and efforts on risky substance use during the preconception period, and on women of reproductive age more broadly.

"This project builds on the current work of CityMatCH member health departments and the proven expertise and experience of CityMatCH and NCBDDD," said Molly Schlife, MPH, Project Coordinator at CityMatCH.

The PSEP Collaborative includes six teams which were selected through a competitive process to participate: Sonoma County (CA); Multnomah County (Portland, OR); Denver, CO; Montgomery County (Dayton, OH); Pinellas County (Tampa, FL); and Baltimore, MD. Teams are comprised of diverse members from the local and state levels, as well as from governmental and non-governmental organizations. For example, the Pinellas County team has representation from the Florida Department of Health, the Pinellas County Health Department, the March of Dimes and the Healthy Start Coalition, among others.

"Whenever we launch a new Collaborative at CityMatCH, we get excited to see the power of public health in action. These teams will make important contributions to their communities through this work," said Chad Abresch, MEd, Interim Executive Director of CityMatCH.

To gain a better understanding of current public health practice in delivering screening services, as well as capacity-building opportunities for local health departments, CityMatCH (with guidance from CDC/NCBDDD) developed a 35-question environmental scan. The scan was distributed to approximately 136 urban public health agencies and preliminary results were used to assist with the development of the collaborative. The survey outcomes identified barriers to preventing substance-exposed pregnancies among local health departments and possibilities for community and clinical collaboration.

In addition, the survey results gave some insight into the role of state health departments and child welfare agencies when it comes to this work. Scan results indicated the following:

  1. 59 percent of respondents work with their state health departments on the prevention of substance-exposed pregnancies in some capacity.
  2. When asked about the primary sources of funding for substance-exposed pregnancy activities, city and county funds were used by the majority of respondents (64 percent), with Title V MCH Block Grant funds used by 45 percent and state/territory funds used by 40 percent. An additional 25 percent use tobacco settlement funding for activities.
  3. Many of the data sources local health departments use to inform programming and planning to prevent substance-exposed pregnancies are accessed through or collected by their states, including PRAMS, BRFSS, YRBS and child welfare/protection data, with 55 percent, 45 percent, 47 percent and 26 percent of respondents, respectively, indicating their use of that data source.

Ideally, the PSEP Practice Collaborative will present state MCH with new opportunities for partnerships and collaborative activities with their urban city/county health departments. The first meeting of the PSEP Collaborative was held in October 2011 and the new cohort of teams is expected to work together through the fall of 2012.

Look for updates from CityMatCH on the progress of this new PSEP Collaborative and lessons learned by visiting For more information, please contact Molly Schlife, Project Coordinator at (402) 561-7500.