Looking Forward, Looking Back
By Michael R. Fraser, PhD CAE
Happy New Year! This issue of Pulse is one of my favorites to put together each year. It captures all that we have done in 2011 to move state maternal and child health (MCH) programs forward – and we have done a great deal – and it also lays out some of the things that we anticipate facing in 2012. This issue is presented with a great sense of pride in all that AMCHP accomplished in 2011, and a cautious optimism about 2012 despite all the challenges we know we will face this year.
No doubt about it: 2011 was tough! The Title V MCH Services Block Grant and a number of other MCH-related programs faced significant funding challenges here in Washington, D.C. as Congress and the administration wrestled with the 2012 federal budget and proposed funding reductions. I’ll remember 2011 as a year of near misses and dodged bullets. Thankfully, with the support and voices of AMCHP members and partners we avoided a $50 million proposed cut to Title V programs and instead face a 2012 Title V budget with a $10 million cut – not ideal, but better than expected. Ironically this cut comes at a time of new investment in programs authorized under the Affordable Care Act, such as the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visitation Program. Many of the presentations I did last year started with the famous opening of Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities – "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." 2011 definitely felt that way for much of the year!
Despite the budget gloom, 2011 was a very productive year here at AMCHP. Our Program Team developed several webinars, research briefs, training programs, leadership development opportunities and family engagement resources that will help state MCH programs be more efficient and effective. Many of these programmatic resources are described in this edition; take a look and let us know what other resources would be helpful to you as an AMCHP member or partner as we move our programmatic work forward. Our Policy Team was equally prolific in developing resources and tools for state MCH programs and their partners – especially in terms of resources to help states plan implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Be sure to review the many resources our National Center on Health Reform Implementation has developed for more on this topic. All this was accomplished by a highly motivated, qualified and devoted team of staff here at AMCHP, as well as an equally skilled cadre of AMCHP members, partners and volunteer leaders.
I am generally an optimist and as such, I wish I could say with great certainty that I thought 2012 was going to be a banner year from MCH programs. Unfortunately, I think it would be more apt to say that 2012 will be a year of great success, but also great challenge. We know that the proposed 2013 federal budget will almost certainly contain proposed cuts to Title V and other federal investments in MCH. Why? Automatic cuts were part of the deal Congress reached in 2012 before charging its "Super Committee" with the unenviable task of shoring up the federal budget. The Super Committee’s lack of consensus means that automatic cuts will be triggered in proposed federal funding for 2013. What does this mean for MCH programs? We don’t know specifics yet, but we will be sure to share what we know when we know it as the year progresses.
With that downer of a new year’s outlook what could possibly be good about 2012? Lots!
First, we have a strong advocacy team and wide support network for Title V – our mailing list and the overall number of folks receiving our legislative alerts (and acting on them) is higher than it has ever been. There are still opportunities to reverse proposed cuts – especially if we can activate a strong response from you and your networks. We are also looking forward to continuing a number of programmatic successes in 2012 – more on programmatic work that we are really excited about is included in this issue of Pulse. And 2012 is starting with an important challenge from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials President, Dr. David Lakey, to improve birth outcomes in all states and reduce the rate of non-medically indicated pre-term birth by 8 percent by 2014. This is a great chance for MCH programs to demonstrate their leadership, expertise, and strength in convening partners and stakeholders around this important and impactful issue.
So, as we look toward 2012, I think we have cause to be excited. Of course, an important holdover from 2011 will be continued MCH leadership in 2012. The gains we make and the successes we enjoy are only possible with the strong leadership of our Board and members, partners, and staff, who all continue to share a uniting vision, align our work and share our resources. I look forward to 2012 with a confidence that AMCHP is in a great position to support state MCH programs and provide national leadership on issues affecting women, children and families. Thank you for being a part of our shared vision and AMCHP! Happy 2012!