By Sarah Verbiest, DrPH, MSW, MPH
Executive Director, Center for Maternal & Infant Health
The National Preconception Health and Health Care (PCHHC) Initiative is a public-private partnership that was launched in 2004 and has worked steadfastly toward achieving the vision that all women and men of childbearing age have high reproductive awareness; all pregnancies are intended and planned; and all women of childbearing age have health coverage and receive needed screenings and services before pregnancy to improve their health and reduce the risk of a poor birth outcome. The PCHHC is organized into five committees (public health, consumers, data and surveillance, policy and finance, and clinical) and a steering committee. The initiative is comprised of experts and leaders from across the nation offering their time and connections to improve the health of women and men of reproductive age.
The initiative is steadily working on its 2012-14 Strategic Plan. One component of this plan included the development, implementation and evaluation of a national preconception health social marketing campaign. The Show Your Love campaign was launched at the AMCHP Annual Conference on Valentine’s Day 2013. Products include checklists for women planning a pregnancy as well as for those who are not. There are podcasts and public service announcements, e-cards, a photo library and more. The evaluation of phase I of Show Your Love is almost complete – initial response to the campaign has been positive. The materials are built on the understanding that women are nurturing, juggling many things and caring for others. Women need to love themselves by taking care of their health. Good health can help a woman achieve her goals and dreams and women can show love to their future baby by loving themselves now.
Other significant efforts include: a) the development of an online toolkit for clinicians to support the integration of preconception health into routine well-woman care; b) a webinar series, featuring health departments that have taken a life course approach to preconception health with a particular focus on agencies that have successfully linked MCH and chronic disease initiatives; c) launching a preconception health resource center; d) enhancing measurement and surveillance of preconception health indicators; and e) promoting preventive health services for women through health care reform. Committees continue to move the plan forward at the same time that they consider the impact and look ahead to 2015.
There are many ways to get involved in this work. First, you can use the Show Your Love social marketing campaign materials in your programs and with the women and men you serve. Sign up to receive our e-newsletter and be among the first to know about the release of our new Preconception Toolkit for Clinicians. Once that toolkit is released please share it with health care professionals in your clinic, county and state. Learn about the Affordable Care Act and be proactive in sharing this information with low-income women in your state. Pay attention to policies and access issues around family planning – intended pregnancies are more likely to result in healthy birth outcomes. Consider producing a county or state women’s preconception health report card or information sheet. Share your work, resources and tools with others by sending information to the PCHHC Resource Center. Be creative and think outside of the box. Preconception health challenges us to put the "W" in maternal and child health!
There are many resources available to support state and local efforts to improve the health of women and men of reproductive age. Below are some examples.